Photos and Review by Stephen Bloch
It seems like every month there is a new group of musicians playing/reinterpreting the timeless music of The Grateful Dead. Last night at Milwaukee’s historic Riverside Theater, Oteil & Friends treated fans to a robust set of Grateful Dead music as well as material from the Allmans Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, and others. The lineup for this Oteil Burbridge tour includes JGB vets Melvin Seals on vibes and Steve Kimock on lead and rhythm, as well as Eric Krasno on guitar and Steve’s son Johnny Kimock on drums.
Based upon the list of folks who have played with Oteil on previous tours, he could have anyone he wants sharing the stage with him. This is a good problem to have and as far as this reviewer is concerned, he couldn’t have done better.
The show opened with a jazzy instrumental cut, “Play it Back,” and then launched into a mind-blowing Jerry cover, “Cats Down Under the Stars.” Certainly a show highlight. Everyone is really a star in this outfit as there doesn’t seem to be predesignated solos or one person taking charge. They share the load in a seamless way that is natural which was particularly true in this “Shakedown Street” (which I had boldly predicted as a closer). Everyone jammed it out and Kimock took the Jerry reigns when he was given the opening. Many felt the highlight of set one was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which was a curveball per Merle’s setbreak share. A welcomed curveball, for sure. The second set opened with “Midnight Moonlight,” a New Riders of the Purple Sage cut, followed by the Oteil original, “Rooster.” Then there was more familiarity, with a groovin’ “Deal” (maybe teased in the first set going into Shakedown) into the Allman’s “Blue Sky” into a seriously funky reggae version of “Franklin’s Tower.” The band closed out the set with some tasty Krasno delivering an inspired “I Shall Be Released” by The Band followed by his track “Unconditional Love.”
There are lots of choices out there when considering Grateful Dead cover/tribute/inspired acts to see (stay tuned for JRAD coverage in early December). Oteil and Friends is something special with the cast of characters on board right now. This brand of Americana will please Dead fans any much, much more. The legacy of Jerry Garcia is very much alive and well.