As the Grateful Dead prepare for their final three 50th anniversary Fare Thee Well shows, the city of Chicago is overflowing with both fans and countless bands paying homage to the institution that helped to change the culture and musical landscape of America. Last night, with over twelve different shows (at the very least) scheduled around the festivities, Thievery Corporation was one band who paid tribute. Flamenco, afro-beat, French Gypsy jazz, electro outfit Beats Antique opened the night, and brought out members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band during their set.

Playing to a rather steamy and packed out Aragon Ballroom, which is one of the most impressive venues in the country with it’s castle-like décor deep-space painted ceiling, Thievery Corporation delivered a 2+ hour set of familiar tunes, along with some truly remarkable takes of songs from the Grateful Dead’s massive catalog of music. With a dozen plus members rotating on stage, the Washington DC-based outfit delivered an impressive set that had the crowd going from beginning to end. It is safe to say that no one knew what to expect on the Dead tunes, but the Corporation did nothing less than hit a home run in their tribute to the band.

Their covers weren’t over the top, nor did they stray too far from the Dead’s own versions; what they did was both tasteful and true to the legendary band’s vision. The first Dead song to make its way into the set was a reggae version of “The Other One”, which had the crowd fully engaged. “China Cat Sunflower” and “Eyes of the World” (with bassist Ashish “Hash” Vyas on vocals) were both performed very well, while the “Scarlet Begonias” had a bit of a hiccup with the vocals, seemingly from an ear monitor issue that singer LouLou Ghelichkhani was having. The song led into an outstanding dubbed-out “Fire on the Mountain” which was superbly done.

Perhaps the most impressive Dead segment of the evening was the “Drums > Space” which left many in the crowd in awe; this is something that Thievery could potentially incorporate into their own set from here on out. This led into a spaced-out “Dark Star”, with Argentinian chanteuse Natalia Clavier on vocals,  which the group created a beautiful dreamscape that left many in the crowd swaying from side to side in sheer enjoyment. As the group ended the show with one of their most well-known songs “The Richest Man in Babylon”, a satisfied crowd dispersed onto the streets of Chicago fully warmed up for what could possibly be the biggest celebration in the music world this year.

Facing East
Take My Soul
Overstand >
The Other One*
Culture of Fear
Radio R
Lebanese Blonde
China Cat Sunflower* >
Liberation Front >
Eyes of the World*
Scarlet Begonias* >
Fire on the Mountain*
Depth of My Soul
Holographic U
Heart is the Hunter
Unified Tribe
Warning Shots
Drums* >
Space* >
Heavens Gonna Burn

Encore: Richest Man in Babylon

* Grateful Dead cover

China Cat Sunflower:

Scarlet Begonias:

Eyes of the World: