Jimi Hendrix was amazing, even on a bad night. And January 9, 1969 was clearly not the best night for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was the second night of the group’s European tour, and Swedish television was there to capture the first of two shows that evening at the Stockholm Concert Hall, or Konserthuset.
“We’re gonna play nothing but oldies-but-baddies tonight,” Hendrix says at the start. “We haven’t played together in about six weeks, so we’re going to jam tonight and see what happens. Hope you don’t mind.” As he steps away from the microphone he can be heard to mutter, “You wouldn’t know the difference, anyway.”
Hendrix looks irritated throughout the 56-minute set. He and the other two members of the band–particularly bassist Noel Redding–hadn’t been getting along, and there were problems with the equipment. In the book Are You Experienced: The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Redding describes the scene:
On the whole, I can’t understand how anyone who saw us on this tour could have liked us. There was a lot of filming for Swedish TV and compared to similar films in 1967, we were a different group. Jimi was sullen and removed and actually slagged off the audience during the first set. He rarely bothered to sing. I paced grimly in my corner and turned my back on him. The sparkle was gone, very gone, replaced by exhaustion and boredom which showed in the sloppy repeats of the hits as we stared at the crowd with dead eyes. We hated playing Sweden. Always the same problem–no drugs. We were forced to drink the killer Schnapps, and it brought on Jimi’s mood for the first set.
“Hendrix was listless and tired,” writes critic Ludvig Rasmusson in the next day’s Dagens Nyheter. “He seemed like he had a desire to run away from it all. The joy of playing was gone. He played his guitar carelessly…. All the other things were gone–liveliness, engagement, impudence, and poetry.”
In the filmed set, the band plays four original songs and three covers:
- “Killing Floor” by Howlin’ Wolf
- “Spanish Castle Magic”
- “Hey Joe” by Billy Roberts
- “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
- “Red House”
- “Sunshine of Your Love” by Jack Bruce, Pete Brown and Eric Clapton
Perhaps the most satisfying moment comes near then end, when Hendrix trades his Fender Stratocaster for a white Gibson SG guitar and plays a soulful version of his traditional-sounding 12-bar blues, “Red House.” But things go downhill again, and the concert ends in pathos. After a desultory instrumental performance of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” Hendrix trades back to his main guitar for another song when the master of ceremonies strides out onto the stage. “That’s the lot, folks,” the man says, and the audience begins to boo. The musicians look at each other quizzically, shrug their shoulders and walk off the stage without saying a word as the crowd continues to boo. “Well,” says the M.C., “they told me that you should finish at nine o’clock. But I guess everyone wants some more–so here they are!” At which point a bored-looking roadie walks out and unplugs Hendrix’s guitar.