Voodoo Dead

Irving Plaza NY, NY

February 10 2017

By Gary Blicksilver

Photos by Sharon Budman


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Check out Sharon Budman’s photo gallery here.


Cream is widely credited with being rock’s first supergroup.  With guitarist Eric Clapton (who, on his own, came to be compared with God), bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, the mathematical equation of “one plus one plus one always equals 3” would be shattered for eternity.  Since then supergroups have come in many shapes and sizes, and have reflected many more genres of music.  Among the relatively new – when compared with the age of the universe – is a collection of Dead-ish musicians who call themselves Voodoo Dead.

Billed as the 11th Annual Nolafunk Mardi Gras Ball & Tour, and performing at New York City’s fabled Irving Plaza, this lineup, which had only played various late nights at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2015 and 2016, consisted of (origin bands in parenthesis):

Steve Kimock – guitar (The Other Ones, Ratdog)
Jackie Greene – guitar, keys & vocals (Phil Lesh & Friends)
Oteil Burbridge – bass (Dead & Company, Allman Brothers)
Jeff Chimenti – keyboards & vocals (Dead & Company, Furthur, Ratdog, etc.)
Wally Ingram – drums (Timbuk3)

plus special guest Papa Mali – guitar & vocals (7 Walkers)

The Funky Dawgz Brass Band got the party going with a short set of New Orleans inspired tunes, culminating with a lively version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The band literally went 3-D when Tommy Weeks and Eric Zeiser left the stage and paraded their brass through the sold-out floor of the Plaza.

After the stage break and re-build, Voodoo Dead came out and started on their largely Grateful Dead setlist.  Coming off the Dawgz, and with folks still in a dancing mood, “Shakedown Street” made as fine an opener as any.  On this, “Brown Eyed Woman” which followed, and on most of the evening’s selections, Greene handled the vocal duties.  He sings with the same ease as he plays any other instrument in his repertoire – tonight he split his time between keys and guitar.

With Greene moving over to share the ivory with Chimenti, Mali sang “Loser” – atypical from the Dead’s catalog as it lacks the hippie-brightness of much of their work:

“If I had a gun for every ace I have drawn,
I could arm a town the size of Abilene
Don’t you push me baby,
‘Cause I’m all alone and you know I’m only in it for the gold”

With Mali taking a break, the band launched into a classic “Dark Star” > “The Other One” > “Dark Star” jam, and it should go without saying that the crowd went into a much expected frenzy.  As was typical with early Dead shows, décor was at a minimum – with the event’s apparent link to Louisiana Voodoo, only the faintest of projected skulls served as a backdrop to the band.

From the video channel of MarcGlenRock

Special guest Leslie Mendelson came out and lent her stunning voice to the Garcia classic “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.”  The first set closed out with “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” with Greene adding the line “Goin’ where the coffee costs a dime.”  If only…

After a quick rest for the band to recharge, and patrons to grab a cold one (or two), Voodoo Dead returned and started with a long and beautifully slow “Eyes of the World.”  The effect of the long jams between verses and Burbridge’s bass solo was something not unlike how and what you’d expect a jazz band to play.  As a bonus, Kimock went horizontal and worked through this gem on a pedal steel guitar.

From the video channel of themeboudin

Just to keep things interesting and perhaps less-Dead, another special guest, 13-year-old guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer came out and played lead on an incredible cover of The Meter’s “Cissy Strut.”  The impression from the gallery was that this kid (in age only) has no fear about playing in the big leagues.  In fact, last July he was on the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden jamming alongside none other than Buddy Guy.  Afterwards, Kimock gave his two cents worth, stating, “It’s like Star Wars or something” followed by “The Kids Are Alright!”

Greene then sang on a heartfelt “So Many Roads,” and with the rate that he’s showing up at venues nation-wide, the song might have taken on added meaning:

“So many roads, I tell you
New York to San Francisco
So many roads I know
All I want is one to take me home”

And just as the clock was striking 12:00 AM, the band closed out the second set with “In the Midnight Hour,” a song originally performed by Wilson Picket.  Finally, and with Mendelson back with her musical friends, Voodoo did an encore of The Crickets cum Dead standard “Not Fade Away.”

Many of the late Boomer to Gen-X Deadheads grew up in the arena and stadium sized world of the Grateful Dead – in fact even their latest incarnation, Dead & Company, plays in the same oversized and relatively impersonal scaled venues.  Irving Plaza dates back to 1860, and at various times, was used as a lecture hall, ballroom, burlesque lounge and movie theatre.  In 1978, the venue was repurposed for rock concerts.  A holdover from long ago, the hall features dual vintage chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and an upper level wrapping around the relatively square space.  One gets the sense that this type of hall is where the original Dead must have been at their most personal selves and while Voodoo Dead played for both older and younger fans, their outstanding performance was a nod to this musical genre’s glorious past.

From the video channel of MarcGlenRock

Set List (from setlist.fm)

Shakedown Street

Brown Eyed Women


Dark Star (Jessica tease)

The Other One

Dark Star

That’s What Love Will Make You Do

Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad

Set Two

Eyes of the World

Cissy Strut

So Many Roads

In the Midnight Hour

E:  Not Fade Away

Check out Sharon Budman’s photo gallery here.

To submit a review or story for consideration hit us at [email protected]

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.