1970 was the year Jimi Hendrix died, but it was also a time of great creative growth for him. Free of the Experience (sort of) and free of the contractual mess that led to Band of Gypsys (more on that in a bit), he holed up in the nearly-finished Electric Lady Studios to work on his next album of material, most of which would trickle out unfinished on various compilations after he died.
For whatever reason—greedy management, according to most accounts—Hendrix had to head back out on the road for a grueling tour, playing the hits, billed as the Experience but with Noel Redding nowhere in sight, trying to play the new stuff and also enough of the hits to keep the crowds happy. The result were some of my favorite performances of his.
You can get some of the tour on official releases already, so I’ve left those off my list, though there are certainly some gems there. The US tour is represented by the Berkeley show (highlight: “Johnny B Goode,” probably, but “Straight Ahead” is also really good) and the Atlanta Pop Festival (not one of my favorites) and there’s a Blue Wild Angel record that captures his kinda-bad Isle of Wight show from August (highlight: “All Along the Watchtower”). The new material was where all the magic happened for the whole year; the older stuff mostly just sounded rote except when “Foxey Lady” got stretched out into interesting jams, and the two exceptions I put on my list. Hendrix also played the “Star Spangled Banner” at most of these shows, just as he’d played it a couple of times before Woodstock, but it’s not exactly something that you need to hear done more than once.
Here are some of my favorite performances from Hendrix’s 1970 tour, in chronological order. If you like pristine audio, you probably won’t be able to hang with most of these, but like so much lost art from the history of humankind, it’s a blessed miracle that we have what we have.