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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

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It was (mostly) worth waiting to witness The Guess Who live

Back in 1994, The Guess Who played Summerfest, and I missed it.

I remember that night pretty clearly: hanging out at my friend Eron's apartment on Oakland Avenue, I said, "Hey, lets go see The Guess Who tonight."

He said, "Nah, I'm tired. We'll catch them next time."

Little did I expect next time to be 13 years later at Wednesday night's opening day of A Taste of Summer in Waukesha.

Since that summer night in '94, I've gradually become more familiar with the library of the Canadian super group, and trust me, I've reminded Eron repeatedly how he blew our chance to see the band we've grown to love.

We did our best to atone last night, and I've got the hoarse voice this morning to prove it.

Sadly, only one original member of the band was present in The Guess Who last night: bassist Jim Kale.  The stunning vocals of Burton Cummings were noticeably absent -- replaced by the mostly competent Carl Dixon, who joined the band in 1997.  Though the band's Web site says original drummer Garry Peterson is still in the group, there's no way the guy we saw last night was over 40.

Still, it was about the best Guess Who cover band you could ever hope for.  And in many ways, it didn't disappoint.

Sadly, the crowd probably totaled less than 1,000, quickly noted by Dixon.  I thought that might encourage the band to sleepwalk through their hits, and at first, that appeared to be the case.  They played most of their greatest hits album, threw in two new songs (and who could blame them) and even entertained the sparse crowd with a few deep cuts, too.

Dixon is no Cummings, and it was evident in my all-time favorite Guess Who song, "No Sugar Tonight."  The song dragged a bit, as did 1969's "Laughing."  Even their opener, "Clap For The Wolfman" sounded a tad off.

But as the hour-plus show progressed, the guys got cooking.  Wrapping up with "Hand Me Down," "These Eyes," "American Woman" and finally "No Time," it sounded like the real deal.

A small group of fans got off their seats and danced and screamed and jammed.  And for a few minutes, I saw a Guess Who concert that made me wish I was born 15 years earlier to see them, in their vintage incarnation. I can only imagine seeing a show in 1966 with Randy Bachman, Cummings, Bruce Decker, Kale and Peterson.  If that reunion ever happens, I'm there.

If the Brewers are about to clinch the pennant the next time the band comes to Milwaukee (Sept. 29 at the prestigious Big Pig Gig in Menomonee Falls), I'll probably skip it.  But if I can spare an hour, I'd definitely see The Guess Who again.

And Eron, you are forgiven (mostly), for skipping out on that show in 1994.

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