Canned Heat are one of the most beloved live bands of all time. They command a following every bit as dedicated as those Dead Heads who live in vans and follow The Grateful Dead from show to show.
Also like the Dead, Canned Heat are one of those bands whose live show changes with the wind. One moment they can be tearing into a full-tilt blues boogie, the other they can shred into a drawn out solo. The only constant is that it’s always amazing.
Here are five amazing moments from throughout the band’s half-century of rocking live.
1967 – Monterey Pop Festival
This was the festival that broke the band on a big scale. Prior to this, Canned Heat had mainly played smaller gigs around the L.A. underground scene – a scene that was bubbling, and threatening to erupt at the time. Monterey was the eruption.
This footage was shot by famed director DA Pennebaker (who directed Dylan’s legendary ‘Don’t Look Back’ film) and a rave review of their set in popular music rag Down Beat gushed: “Technically, Vestine and Wilson are quite possibly the best two-guitar team in the world and Wilson has certainly become our finest white blues harmonica man.”
The twin shot of this performance and a debut album the following month saw the band quickly rise to fame.
1969: On The Road Again – Woodstock
The band’s biggest hit, at the most famous festival of all time.
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Woodstock is often used as a shorthand to describe the merging of youth culture, drugs, music, sunshine and the optimistic attitude rushing through the late ’60s. Canned Heat’s blistering, narcotic rendition of ‘On The Road Again’ was the perfect soundtrack to an era of wide open roads and limitless possibilities.
1970: Human Condition – Live in Kralingen
This video quality isn’t the best, but this is an important historical document — albeit a bittersweet one — as it is the last known footage of co-founder and singer Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson. He died just over a month after this concert was recorded.
Here he sings his great composition, ‘Human Condition’
1973: Canned Heat live in Stockholm
Some genius has uploaded an entire 1973 Stockholm concert here, and the band have adapted well to the shock loss of their vocalist Alan Wilson, adding guns James Shane and Ed Beyer. The band were firing on all cylinders here, sharpened by years on the road.
2015: ‘Going Up The Country’ – Ternitz
Jumping forward a few lazy decades now to 2015, and the band are still running on pure jet fuel, with three of the original members still performing at their peak. Like a fine wine, great blues groups only improve with age.
Check this out if you’re still not certain you need to catch this legendary outfit at Bluesfest, then grab tickets here, or see them on their sideshow tour from March 22 – 28, with tickets on sale now (and full tour dates below).