Saturday, 6 April 2013

Jimi at the Royal Festival Hall riddle

After the Jimi Hendrix Experience returned from their 3-month visit to the USA in the summer of 1967, they played two dates at the Saville theatre in London: on 27 August and on 8 October. The excellent Univibes magazine published a feature article on all ’67 Saville shows in its May 2013 issue including these two dates. I noticed a photo [see right] on page 22 bottom left, which – according to the magazine – is from the first show of 8 October. I think the magazine is incorrect, and I’ll try to explain here why.

It has always been my belief that these photos were taken at the Royal Festival Hall on 25 September 1967. Fact is that they were taken by Ray Stevenson. His photos can be found on the Rex Features website [rexfeatures.com] where they also have the 25 September date. So why would Univibes contradict this?

There are several reasons why these photos are indeed from the Royal Festival Hall gig, and in any case certainly not from the Saville show on 8 October.

• Most notibly are the microphones Jimi used. If we compare them with the ones used at the Saville show [see left] , the microphones of the photo above differ: all microphone stands are solid at the Saville, while one of the stands on the photo above has a curved top, like the ones you can bend in different shapes. I note that it could have been switched during a break, but I will beg to differ here.

• On none of the photos from 8 October we see Jimi wearing his Huzar vest; backstage at the Hall posing with Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe we do see him wearing it, as well as during the Festival Hall show itself.

• The Royal Festival Hall is a large theatre: 2,500 seats. The Saville is much smaller: 1,426 seats, almost half the size of the Festival Hall. When Jimi played the Saville on 8 October, the stage was still occupied by the main set of Elsinore Castle from the Hamlet play that was on at that time. This meant that the group’s equipment had to be set up very close to the edge of the stage.
If we look at the photos from the afternoon rehearsal [see right] we can see there is only a few meters between the amps and the edge of the stage. Very little room for Jimi to move. If we compare that to the Festival Hall photos, it seems there is much more stage room.

• The edge of the stage at the Saville is filled with flood lights; none of this can be seen on any of the Festival Hall photos.
• The edge of the Saville stage [see left] has a rounded edge, with a space in the middle special for the flood lights; the stage edge at the Festival Hall seems to be just a straight cornered edge with no lighting.

• The stage at the Saville has a floor-covering of some sort; the stage at the Festival Hall seems to be of varnished wood. [Notice also the 'No smoking' sign!]

• The Festival Hall photos show no amps, no background, no floodlights. Just a vast empty space.

• All Stevensons photos have been taken from a large distance. The Saville certainly would have allowed him to take pictures from a much closer distance.

Jimi got dressed for the posh theatre and wore his turquoise velvet suit [as stated in the review by Anthony Thorncroft] at the Festival Hall. The photos by Ray Stevenson were taken mid set after Jimi took of his coat.

More details on the 8 October show at the Saville in the next blog post.

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