JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
LIVE IN MAUI
By Gillian G. Gaar
Live in Maui finally compiles all the audio and film available of the only element of the Rainbow Bridge movie that most people cared about: Jimi Hendrix’s performance.
You just have to hear the group’s introduction by Rainbow Bridge director Chuck Wein — “Welcome, cosmic brothers and sisters of Maui, to the Rainbow Bridge Vibratory Color Sound Experiment” — to know that it’s the hippie era. There were other cosmic touches as well: a group chanting of “Om” to set the appropriately groovy mood, and one attendee recalling that Hendrix “played a note for each zodiac sign and then he merged them all together,” an exercise sadly not a part of this recording.
Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell played two sets, a total of just over an hour and a half (meaning it’s longer than previous unofficial releases of this show). Hendrix is more low-key during the first set, his solo extending “Hear My Train A-Comin’” to nine-and-a-half minutes, while “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” runs seven minutes. Like a good showman, he closes with his signature song, a somewhat ragged “Purple Haze.”
The second set is a good deal livelier, perhaps because the crowd had been encouraged to get up and dance. There are good versions of “Lover Man,” “Message to Love,” another nice guitar workout in the aptly named “Jam Back at the House” and a rousing “Stone Free” to finish. “I think he was stretching himself in areas he hadn’t been to before,” Mitchell observed. Overall, the sound quality is a bit rough, but that’s easy to overlook due to the historical nature of the recording (and it’s definitely superior to any previous releases).
The Blu-ray includes, in the words of producer John McDermott, “literally every piece of film that they filmed” of the live show. That only amounts to about an hour of footage, but it’s great to have. The main feature on the Blu-ray is the documentary Music, Money, Madness…Jimi Hendrix in Maui. It’s a more professional production than the 2013 Rainbow Bridge Revisited documentary, not least because the producers had access to the official footage.
McDermott carefully sets the scene, providing a lot of background information on how the project came together, drawing on numerous interviews with the participants. There’s no love lost between the filmmakers and the professionals; the film crew was irritated at being awoken in the middle of the night to film because “the vibes are right,” and tour manager Gerry Stickells refers to the filming as “a general chaos thing.” But Hawaii residents are still dazzled by the memory. “To see Jimi Hendrix in this setting, it was like a gift from God,” says photographer Brian Byrnes.
The music, live footage and documentary do much to clarify this period of Hendrix’s career, with the Maui and subsequent Honolulu gig (some footage of which appears in the documentary) being his last U.S. shows. It all captures the mellow spirit of the age, when, as one interviewee recalls, “It’s as though time stood still. It was an incredible time, a great time, youthful time, a time of freedom, no responsibilities, and we were young.”