History has been kind to the legacies of perceived second-bananas John Oates and Bob Weir. In a recent comedy special, Chris Rock noted how Oates deserves just as much credit as Daryl Hall for their long running partnership. “I don’t know what Oates does,” Rock quipped. “But Hall never had a hit record without him.” Similarly, Weir was always perceived to be second to Jerry Garcia during the lifespan of the the Grateful Dead. But in the two decades since Jerry’s death he has played an essential role in keeping the spirit of the band alive.
Oates and Weir recently teamed up during an Oates solo performance at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. It was an encore of their previous pairing at the venue in 2015. Weir blends in so well with Oates’ band that one hopes they make a habit out of this.
The duo played a 23-minute set within a set that included renditions of the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” and “West L.A. Fadeaway” and a cover of the Temptations’ ‘70s-funk classic “Shakey Ground.” The song itself was originally released in 1975, around the time Hall and Oates recorded their self-titled “Silver Album” and the Dead made its first foray into disco with Blues for Allah.
For the track the two essentially did what both Hall and Oates and Dead & Company have done with their songs in concert in recent years. They took a fast-faced funk tune, slowed it down and added a bit of acoustic guitar (courtesy of Oates). The lead vocal responsibilities fell to Weir, but the two then traded off during the call-and-response chorus. Extending the track to eight minutes opened up plenty of room for improvisation. Weir and Oates played as if they were kindred musical spirits, which maybe they are.
Click here to listen to more Temptations covers.