BAND OF GYPSYS AT FILLMORE EAST: NEW YEAR’S 1970 – 1st JANUARY 1970: SECOND NIGHT (THURSDAY)

Posted: February 2, 2016 in MUSIC
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The four shows that Band Of Gypsys played at Fillmore East to bring in the New Year have rightly gone down as some of the best shows of all time, especially those on New Year’s Day itself. There were moments on New Year’s Eve where the band seemed to be lacking energy for whatever reason but on the whole every show was fantastic, as stated by the lucky devils I interviewed who were there to witness the shows for themselves. The music was funkier than that of the Hendrix Experience and while the drums may seem simple at times especially compared to Mitch Mitchell, the drums are a pivotal piece to the music that Hendrix was playing at this particular time. The Band Of Gypsys wouldn’t last for much longer with their final show coming less then a month later at Madison Square Garden in New York (Hendrix would leave the stage after just two songs and Miles would be fired backstage) but the music the band played at these four shows was and continues to be nothing short of exceptional.

There are certain artists who played certain shows with certain performances that will always be remembered, and that is certainly the case with the Band Of Gypsys at Fillmore East.

JANUARY 1ST 1970: SECOND NIGHT (THURSDAY)

FIRST SHOW: Setlist:

Who Knows
Machine Gun
Them Changes
Power Of Soul
Stepping Stone
Foxy Lady
Stop
Earth Blues
Burning Desire
The two shows from New Year’s Day 1970 are considered to be the finest shows the Band Of Gypsys ever played together. The band open the early show with the funky Who Knows which was debuted the night before at the late show. This version would end up on the self titled live album released later in 1970 with a call and response from Hendrix and Miles. The riff from Who Knows is definitely one of the most infectious Hendrix riffs of all time and it’s one hell of a way to open a show. Not a bad introduction. Machine Gun follows and this exact performance is what people today consider one of the finest moments in rock history and you can’t help but share that view when you listen for yourself. What Hendrix managed to do with the guitar in his lifetime was exceptional and in a live setting he was even more on his game than he was in the studio, and that’s saying something. But this performance of Machine Gun is musical perfection in every sense of the term. You can only imagine how incredible it was to witness this performance in person and thankfully we have a recording to re-live it as best as we can over and over again. Buddy Miles returns on lead vocals for Them Changes with Hendrix playing that funky riff whilst being able to take a back seat and focus on his playing. The solo that he plays is gorgeous with splashes of wah-wah once again to create that Band Of Gypsys tone that so many guitarists long for even today. Halfway through the song things slow down as Miles takes over on lead vocals. Hendrix and Cox remain composed in the background waiting for the moment where the song will take off once again. Before that happens, Miles begins to quick things on drums before everyone else comes in on that funky riff once again.

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Power Of Soul makes it’s third appeared in three shows and any of the energy present the previous evening hasn’t diminished one bit. Hendrix is in fine form and brings in the wah-wah once again for a second solo near the end of the song, having playing a solo without it to begin with. It’s a great mixture of tone to say the least. Stepping Stone during this early show is the complete opposite to how it was played the day before where it appeared to lack energy, at least if the recording has anything to go by. But this performance is fantastic with Buddy Miles driving the song forward and coming across as far more laid back and relaxed than he had the previous night. Hendrix on vocals comes across as confident and in control and the guitar playing is as you’d expect it would be. Incredible. It’s followed by Foxy Lady which, once more, would prove to be one of the finest moments from not only this particular show but the entire Fillmore East run.

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Mark Waldrop (Fillmore East Usher – Present At All Four Shows)

“The thing I remember most was that he didn’t look stoned like he often did and he was clearly enjoying himself more than I’d ever seen. His hair was shorter and it seemed like a different Jimi in a good way. I do recall that the 1st show was unspectacular, but that’s well documented. The other three shows were outstanding.”

Tony Fradkin (Audience Member)

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t there on the 31st. I do recall that we were really disappointed that he was just standing there and not moving much, but when the LP came out later, we realized that he was playing his ass off. I think he did do Foxy Lady and moved around a bit on that one. I’m always amazed at folks that remember all of these details, I certainly don’t!”

Stop is a song which, as you can hear from the New Year’s Day early show, sounded so much better than it did the previous night. The band appear to be on top of things and Miles really impresses on lead vocal duties with Hendrix supplying some tasteful backing vocals when needed. Hendrix goes on to take a short solo before Miles takes control of the song once more with another vocal verse. It’s quickly followed by Earth Blues although sadly the start of this song is cut from the recording, but what you’re able to hear is Hendrix (yet again) at the top of his game. Something he’s always been known and admired for was his ability to have the music flow from his fingertips and this performance is a really good example of that. Paired with the incredible tone he produces, you feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train once the song ends. Burning Desire then returns to close the set just like it did at the early show the previous evening.

When you listen to a recording of this show from start to finish you’ll realise at the end how fast it went by. There were only nine songs played but with the first two clocking in at twenty two minutes combined, it was anything but short. The fact that it goes by so fast is a testament to how great these three guys played, after all, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.

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thanks to Tom Caswell for this article

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