For Hendrix freaks, it doesn’t get much better that this two-DVD set. Now for the first time, we can see Hendrix’s entire Woodstock performance—14 songs delivered in their original sequence—with the six-piece Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. Released in 1999, the original single-disc Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock offered an hour’s worth of highlights from the show, but not the whole enchilada.
Yet there’s more: The feature movie on disc 1 has been painstakingly re-edited with new camera angles, and expanded to 80 minutes with recent interviews. Those who worked closely with Hendrix—bandmates Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, and Billy Cox; Gypsy Sun & Rainbows second guitarist Larry Lee and percussionist Juma Sultan; engineer Eddie Kramer; and assorted managers and promoters—all have their say about his legacy.
In a way, disc 2 is even more amazing. A 22-year-old college student managed to smuggle a clunky, tripod-mounted video camera onstage and shoot the whole show from the musician’s perspective. In this footage, we watch Hendrix joking and giving directions to the band as if we were standing next to Cox and Lee, and we hear Hendrix’s raps, most of which are missing from the film edition. Amazingly, this video also contains seven minutes of music—a bluesy jam of “Hear My Train a Comin’”—the official film crew missed.
By today’s standards, the black-and-white video images are primitive, but the intimacy of this footage makes it priceless. Where the videotape runs into technical trouble, the editors have substituted 16mm film clips—always perfectly in sync with the music and often providing alternative angles to those in the main film. Essentially, we get two views of Hendrix’s spellbinding performance: a full-color, carefully edited, multi-camera edition, shot primarily from the front of the stage, plus a grainy, black-and-white cinéma vérité version shot from behind.
Disc 2 also includes three mini-documentaries. In a press conference in Harlem, held shortly after Woodstock, we watch a mellow Hendrix respond to questions from the uptight press regarding politics, drugs, and society. Cox and Lee recall the times they spent playing in clubs with Hendrix in the Nashville area, and we see a handful of photos from this period. Finally, Kramer describes in detail how he dealt with the technical challenges of recording Hendrix at Woodstock. A cool booklet with Hendrix’s handwritten set list and poetry, stage photos, and a detailed essay on how the film crew captured the event completes the package. The expanded Live at Woodstock makes it perfectly clear why, decades after his death, Hendrix remains rock’s most inventive and magical guitarist. Experience Hendrix.