Live Dead ’69 Gives a Taste of Woodstock

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The House of Blues gave Chicago-area fans a taste of Woodstock, as Grateful Dead tribute band Live Dead ’69 recreated the Dead’s set from the iconic festival. Lisa heard about this show a few weeks ago and she entered a drawing for free tickets. About two days before the the performance, she got an email telling her we’d won a pair of tickets. Way cool!

Chicago House of Blues
House of Blues

The day of the show, we found out that another tribute band, The Who’s Who, would be opening. I consider myself a Deadhead, but my absolute favorite band of all time is The Who, so I was extra psyched to go.

House of Blues: A Great Venue!

This was our second trip to the House of Blues (HoB) – the first time was for Spafford last October – and once again the venue treated us very well. We picked up our tickets at the box office, where they also gave us a voucher for 15% off a meal at the HoB restaurant. After a tasty dinner, we headed up to the concert hall.

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Chicago House of Blues
House of Blues Concert Hall

This was a Thursday, so the place wasn’t as packed as it was for the Spafford show we saw there on a Friday. In fact, we managed to get right in the front row, on the left side of the stage. As you’ll soon find out, this was the absolute best place to be, especially while The Who’s Who played.

Who’s Who Was On First

The curtain rose to the familiar chords of I Can’t Explain, a standard Who opening tune. Less than halfway into the song, I knew we’d scored the best seats in the house: right in front of the bass player. Alex Evans was simply outstanding; he exhibited all the energy and driving force of John Entwistle, even capturing the little nuances – slides, bends, and fills – that John frequently added to a song. It was amazing to watch. When they finished their set, I said to Lisa, “Did Entwistle’s ghost inhabit that dude’s body?” Yeah, he’s that good!

Who's Who Tribute Band bassist Alex Evans
Alex Evans Channeling His Inner Entwistle

The band’s lead guitarist, John Hackett, is tall and thin, sporting long hair like Pete Townshend had in the Woodstock era. (All he needs is a bigger nose.) He did a good job of replicating Pete’s sound and stage presence, windmills and all.

The lead singer, Wayne Garamoni, dressed like Roger Daltrey in The Who’s prime, albeit without Roger’s six-pack abs. (Not that I have any room to speak on that.) But his voice was good and he did the whole dancing and mic swinging bit, which was fun to watch. Alex Evans wore a skeleton costume, adding the Entwistle look to his sound, and the percussionist (Rob van Daal) donned a Keith Moon t-shirt and did a respectable job behind the drum kit.

Who's Who Tribute Band
The Who’s Who

Classic Who

The band’s set was relatively short, since they were the openers, but they managed to pack in a bunch of classics like I Can See For Miles, I’m Free (which segued nicely into Pinball Wizard), My Generation (complete with a killer bass solo), Baba O’Riley, Long Live Rock, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Shakin’ All Over, Summertime Blues, and concluding with The Who’s standard closer, Won’t Get Fooled Again.

During the synth solo of the final song, I saw Hackett trade his guitar for a different one. I figured he broke a string, but as the song ended, he lifted the guitar over his head – that’s when I realized that that’s his “beater” guitar. He didn’t smash it, but he did whack it on the floor a few times.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

I’ve been listening to The Who since the late 70s when I discovered good music. I’ve seen them multiple times and I own most of their albums. As you can probably imagine, I have very high standards when it comes to bands covering Who songs. The Who’s Who lived up to those standards and then some. Check them out if you get a chance!

Shakin’ All Over

Dead Ahead

I was a little late in discovering the magic of The Grateful Dead. I’d heard a few radio songs played on classic rock stations, but it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I became friends with some Deadheads who turned me on to their bootleg tapes of live shows. Over the ensuing years, I saw some shows and picked up a few bootlegs and records, including Live/Dead, the album from which the band Live Dead ’69 took its name.

Live Dead '69...Tom Constanten on keyboards and guitarist Slick Aguilar

Live Dead 69’s keyboard player is Tom Constanten, who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead in the late 60s. (He’s the only “official” Dead keyboard player who’s still alive.) Other members include Mark Karan (guitar) Slick Aguilar (guitar), and Robin Sylvester (bass).

Check out our review of Dead and Company.

Karan and Sylvester have played in Bob Weir’s RatDog, and Aguilar was a member of Jefferson Starship and toured with David Crosby’s band. The two guitarists traded off lead and rhythm, both handling the “Jerry Duty” quite adeptly.

Mama tried to get a steady video, but she couldn’t stop dancing!

The Woodstock Set

Their first set was a replication of the Dead’s Woodstock performance, which was only five songs: St. Stephen, Mama Tried, Dark Star, High Time, and Turn On Your Love Light. Here’s a screen capture from the band’s video taken at the side of the stage. We’re in the front row on the left – with the Love Light shining on us! I’m the guy wearing a white fedora. The hot chick next to me is Lisa. (Click the pic to see the video of the entire first set.)

Turn On Your Love Light – Let It Shine On Us!

After a short break, they played a second set of early Dead material, including a lively Bertha, Cold Rain and Snow, The Eleven, Brown Eyed Women, New Speedway Boogie, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, and an extended jam on Wharf Rat. Around the middle of that jam, we saw a HoB employee on the side of the stage shining a flashlight at the guitarists, trying to get their attention. I think the show was supposed to wrap up at 11:00, but they were still jamming at 11:15. He tried several times, but they didn’t pay attention. (“We’re in the zone, man! The song ends when the song wants to end, okay?”)

Eventually, he gave up and just enjoyed the moment like the rest of us. When the song finished, the drummer told the rest of the band, “We’re out of time. We’re done.” Mark Karan looked at him, nodded, and probably thought, “What would Jerry do?” Then he said, “One more,” and they played a soulful And We Bid You Goodnight before leaving the stage.

Mark Karan on guitar (left) and Robin Sylvester on bass...Live Dead '69 Tribute Band

Woodstock Revisited

I would have gone to Woodstock, except that my sister got married that weekend and I was in the wedding. (Oh, and I was only five years old and my parents weren’t hippies.) But I did see the movie and I bought the soundtrack – both of which omitted the Grateful Dead’s set.

I heard an interview with Jerry Garcia where he said that their Woodstock performance was awful, partly due to bad electrical wiring that caused them to get shocked throughout the show. I’m happy to say that Live Dead ’69 had no such problems. They rocked the place, much to the delight of the Deadheads in the crowd – the young ones, and those of us with a Touch of Grey.

We Don’t Go See Tribute Bands Very Often

There’s just something about seeing a band in their heyday. It’s special and pretty much impossible to recreate that feeling. However, it’s fun to see a tribute band that really performs the music in the style of the original but with a bit of their own flair. It doesn’t happen often! This show at the House of Blues was a great reminder that there are musicians out there that really knock it out of the park!

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