Guitar hero Jimi Hendrix has a special association with the Royal Albert Hall, with the venue being the site of some of his most notable British gigs, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final UK concert.
Within months of arriving in Britain in September 1966, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (featuring bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell) were already making waves on the UK music scene. Jimi’s virtuosic guitar had propelled their debut Are You Experienced? to No. 2 in the charts, and the country was quickly becoming addicted to the band’s psychedelic, rainbow blues sound.
1967: Hall debut
With all eyes on the band’s theatrical performances The Jimi Hendrix Experience were invited to play the iconic Hall just one year later on 14 November 1967, alongside The Move, Pink Floyd, The Amen Corner and The Nice.
The audience enthusiastically surrendered to Hendrix’s rock’n‘roll attack, and papers heralded the band as the hottest thing on the British music scene:
‘Hail Jimi Hendrix, the personality, the contortionist, the wise-cracker, the exhibitionist. Hail Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell, his traumatic Experience. How they were needed to close the package which opened up at London’s Albert Hall… The bill seemed as if it would never get off the ground. Thank goodness for Hendrix the untamed and the unchained swinging down from the trees through Knightbridge and Kensington to set the masses on fire in an ectoplasma of sound…. Most of all it was Hendrix the showman, the king-size personality.’
New Musical Express, 1967
1969: Final appearances
Two years later, a more musically mature The Jimi Hendrix Experience returned. The band’s two gigs, on 18 and 24 February 1969, would be their first and final headline performances at the Hall.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience sold out the Hall easily, supported by Mason, Capaldi, Wood and Frog and The Soft Machine on 18 February, and by Van Der Graaf Generator and Fat Mattress on 24 February.
Tensions had been growing between band members and management for several months, but these were put aside for these two concerts, which would be remembered as some of the band’s best and most successful late performances.
Throwing out their usual set list, Hendrix and the band instead included several of his blues songs including Hear My Train a Comin’, Red House and Bleeding Heart.
Hendrix’s music roused the crowd, inciting a near riot when he threatened to leave the stage at the end of his set:
‘The crowd then went absolutely berserk and shouted for more for about 4-5 minutes. Some people started to leave as it didn’t look as though they were coming back, but they did and then they went absolutely… well, there is no word for it! People were dancing in the aisles, Jimi went mad with the atmosphere and they did Purple Haze and Wild Thing. He played with his teeth and then on the floor…. [the stage] was beseiged [sic] by fans, police, bouncers, floor managers and practically the entire audience!’
Jane Simmons, ‘The Official Jimi Hendrix Fan Club Of Great Britain’ newsletter, April/May 1969
Hendrix didn’t often give encores, but he did for the eager Hall audience, bringing out Traffic’s Dave Mason and Chris Wood and percussionist Rocki Dzidzornu to perform Room Full of Mirrors.
These shows would be the final European performances by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and immortalise Jimi’s legacy as rock history’s greatest instrumentalist.
Today, Jimi Hendrix’s performances at the Hall have been memorialised in our Loading Bay street art project LOAD – a graphical journey through the most memorable moments in the Hall’s existence.
Plus, see if you can spot Hendrix in the Hall’s Sir Peter Blake’s mural masterpiece entitled Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall – a fascinating ‘who’s who’ history of the past century-and-a-half of culture, seen through the prism of the Hall’s legendary stage.
Fifty years after 1967’s Summer of Love, explore the Royal Albert Hall’s role in this fascinating era of London’s cultural history as part of a major new season of events. Summer of Love: Revisited celebrates the counterculture movement with specially-selected talks, gigs and screenings about the music, poetry and politics of the period.
18 & 24 February 1969
Hear My Train a Comin’
I Don’t Live Today
Sunshine of Your Love, Cream,
Bleeding Heart, Elmore James,
Voodoo Child, Slight Return
Room Full of Mirrors (Jimi Hendrix song)
Wild Thing, The Wild Ones
The Star-Spangled Banner, John Stafford Smith