Voodoo Dead at the Ardmore Music Hall - photo by Ryan O'Malley
Voodoo Dead at the Ardmore Music Hall - photo by Ryan O'Malley

Voodoo Dead

Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA

February 11, 2017

Story and cover photo by Ryan O’Malley

Additional photography by Karl McWherter

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Over the past few years, some friends would come together in late April and early May during the yearly Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead with the appropriately titled Voodoo Dead. It’s become a staple of the Jazz Fest after shows, and always sells out whenever the shows are announced.

For the first time since they formed in the Big Easy, the current incarnation of Voodoo Dead brought themselves to the Northeast for a brief run of shows, including a stop at the Ardmore Music Hall outside Philadelphia last Saturday.

Before the headliners, an enjoyable set from the Funky Dawgz – an upbeat brass band from Connecticut – delivered a nice mixture of New Orleans staples such as “When the Saints Come Marching In,” and “Turn on Your Lovelight,” and reworked some “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These),” by The Eurythmics into a danceable crowd pleaser. Even though the band isn’t from New Orleans, they do a spectacular job in recreating the city’s signature sound.

Around 9:45, guitarist Steve Kimock led keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, bassist Oteil Burbridge, drummer Wally Ingram, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jackie Greene onto the stage for an extended take on the groovy instrumental “You’re the One,” which also saw Chimenti shine on a thunderous Hammond B3 solo. Bob Dylan material made its way into the first set twice, beginning with “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” which saw the ensemble augmented by Papa Mali, a guitarist and singer who is a fixture of the New Orleans music scene, and a lifelong Louisiana resident.

After the extensive pairing of the opening two numbers, the crowd was treated to a rocking take on the Dead classic “China Cat Sunflower” which featured a psychedelic explorative jam before transitioning into the undeniable “I Know You Rider.” Bringing the first set to a close, the group once again paid tribute to the influence Dylan had on the Dead’s music with a tight run through his gem “Highway 61 Revisited.”

After a short break, the second set found the group taking the stage to Congo Man Chant which gave way into a slow but infectious version of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up,” as a belated birthday homage to the late reggae legend, with both Chimenti and Greene on keys. The New Orleans anthem “Iko Iko” proved to be a highlight of the evening as it featured some exceptional bass playing from Burbridge, who, as bassist for the immensely popular Dead and Company, has become one of the most respected players of the modern Dead scene.

A non-stop barrage of Deadhead favorites followed, beginning with a drawn-out “Bird Song” that had some nice guitar work from Kimock, before leading into a lively “Bertha,” featuring some powerful vocals from Greene who first came into the Dead scene in 2008 as a Friend of Phil Lesh. The always enjoyable crowd favorite “Loose Lucy” provided one of the loudest segments of the night before the familiar opening of “Scarlet Begonias” had the sold-out crowd dancing in unison. The cut also featured some of the best interplay between Kimock and Chimenti who are proving to be a lethal combination. For the second time of the evening, the recognizable riff to “Turn on Your Lovelight” had the crowd bouncing along to the thumping rendition which featured some vocals from Burbridge and also brought the show to a close.

While it may only be an on-again-off-again project, Voodoo Dead provides Deadheads with the chance to see some of the better-known names of the post-Garcia era of the Dead extended family. Although the ensemble typically only regroups in New Orleans for Jazz Fest after shows, if the reception they got on this brief outing was any indication, there will be countless people waiting for the chance to catch Voodoo Dead if they decide to take the project on the road for another round.

To watch the entire show, check out LiquidSilverStream’s video on YouTube here:

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