Voodoo Dead ventured from their New Orleans origins to play an early November weekend of shows in Colorado. The quintet, comprised of Dead & Company’s Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti, guitarist Steve Kimock, his drummer son John Morgan Kimock and guitarist Jackie Greene, did a pair of shows at the colorful and aptly-named Gothic Theatre in Denver and a finale at the Fox Theater in Boulder (without Greene).
The first night at the Gothic was a revelation as the band provided a diverse setlist and expert jamming amid a packed house that eagerly awaited the first notes. Known for an ever-changing lineup (including Bill Kreutzmann, Papa Mali and others), this pack of jam-band veterans immediately hit an amazing and powerful stride. Though the first set only featured five songs, the extended jams in each tune made for well over an hour of music.
Opening the show with the Dead classic, “Bertha,” guitarist Greene immediately set the tone with his emotive vocals. Steve Kimock is one of the most experienced guitarists in the world of the Dead, having co-founded the Heart of Gold Band in 1980 with Keith and Donna Godchaux, and has long been one of the best guitarists on the scene (and one of Jerry Garcia’s favorites). Greene and Kimock traded fiery solos throughout the show, but Chimenti was simply on fire. His energy and prowess on the keyboards recalled the best of Brent Mydland and showcased just how good Chimenti is in concert with one peak after another.
Wisely, the band took advantage of bassist Burbridge’s fantastic vocals, having him handle the lead vocals on “If I Had The World To Give” and the JGB nugget, “Gomorrah.” But Jackie Greene is no slouch and he expertly sang lead on everything else. “Mr. Charlie” was swampy and the band clearly seemed to be enjoying themselves as they found their groove. The major highlight in the first set had to be an energetic, transcendent cover of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man.” Greene added an extra layer of melody to the chorus and the song soared. Some folks may not have been familiar with this classic 60s number, but it was a jumping version and the band worked several teases of “Loose Lucy” throughout the lively jam section.
The second set started off strong with a pulsating rendition of Dylan’s bluesy “Highway 61 Revisited.” Following “Gomorrah,” the band played a faithful version of “Deal,” which segued into a long, instrumental version of “Dark Star,” then back into “Deal.” A poignant, beautiful “So Many Roads” followed and this latter-era Garcia/Hunter ballad sounded truly heavy and epic. Voodoo Dead then kicked it home with a meaty “Not Fade Away” interspersed with a nice instrumental take on The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby,” (another nod to JGB).
The band bid adieu with an electric encore of the singalong, “Ripple.” They had to feel good about their inaugural Colorado show, as the thousand-plus folks in attendance were dancing, singing and shouting throughout the night. The only odd thing was that they didn’t dive into the New Orleans songbook. No “Iko Iko” or “Hey Pocky Way,” songs that perfectly fit their moniker, and while they’ll likely get around to those, there was plenty of voodoo magic in their jams. They may be a glorified cover band but they’ve got the credentials – and the chops – to keep this thing going a long time.