Photo by Dino Perrucci
There was a unique presence at Irving Plaza on February 10th. That presence was Voodoo Dead, and all of those at the sold out show felt it. Voodoo Dead comprises Steve Kimock, Oteil Burbridge, Wally Ingram, Jackie Greene, and Papa Mali. Personally, I felt as if I was in the presence of something special. As the band opened with a rousing Shakedown Street I knew this night was going to be a transformative night.
Heights were reached with this all-star line up that explored the transitive nightfall of diamonds that left me with my mouth on the floor. Seriously, this was an incredible night. My speechlessness of the evening was in response to the exploration of the musicians. As I watched I could tell there was a real discovery happening between band members and the audience. These songs have been around for nearly fifty years, but the look of surprise on the band members and the audience made you think this is still brand new. No script was needed for the Voodoo Dead for they let the spirit lead them.
Instrumentally, Greene’s guitar playing at times felt like his voodoo was both channeling Duane Allman and Jerry Garcia. Vocally he was on point the entire night. Papa Mali added his own unique flavor to the song Deal, and as he sang “don’t you touch hard liquor just a cup of cold coffee”, the look on his face made you think he knew exactly what he was singing about.
The spotlight rarely fell on Steve Kimock as he hung out in the background, but it didn’t need to, his guitar brought its own ray of light. If you have ever heard Kimock play you know what I’m talking about. During an amazing Dark Star>The Other One>Dark Star, there were no vocals because Kimock’s guitar did the talking. At one point during The Other One his guitar feedbacked in such a way that he unhitched his strap and placed his guitar in front of his amp and let the noise explode into a new dimension.
Jeff Chimenti was all smiles the entire night as he was graceful on his keys and traded licks with Greene and Kimock. Burbridge was all over the neck of his bass giving the audience a true experience of what the O-Zone is all about. Burbridge let it all hang out and was as funky as ever with an amazing bass solo on Eyes of The World that made me think his fingers are capable of taking Dead and Company into new places.
Local singer Leslie Mendelson who has been on the stage with Bob Weir for the Campfire tour joined the band vocally for a few songs that made me hope she sticks around the Dead scene for many years to come. She brings sweetness and soul with her singing and her dance moves make me wonder if she is single!
I would be remiss to mention Brandon “Taz” Niederauer who joined the group for a cover of Cissy Strut. He’s 13 years old but plays like he was born with a guitar in his hand. Taz, Kimock, and Chimenti had such a chemistry that Kimock referred to Taz as the “Star Wars New Hope.”
This was a unique night as the band played on past midnight. The Dark Star definitely crashed. This priestly ensemble of voodoo clergy consecrated us with their renditions of the hymnal of Dead music that left my mouth on the floor. As I left Irving Plaza and caught the six train home I felt secure in knowing that this music is in good hands for years to come. We were blessed.