Following Wednesday night’s opening show and a day spent—we can only assume—scuba-diving the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, eating deep dish pizza, and binge-watching The Blues Brothers and The Last DanceWidespread Panic returned to the Chicago Theatre on Thursday with their zealous cavalcade of hopeful dreamers in tow.

The performance saw Widespread Panic put on their “Halloween Face” for the second time ever while staking a claim as the cleanest swamp-rockers in the biz with a setlist chock full of classic originals and fan-favorite covers by Warren Zevon, Bloodkin, Vic Chesnutt, The Guess Who, and Neil Young.

The band’s second night in the Windy City got a hot start via a rowdy run through Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”. Dave Schools anchored the tempo for a lengthy, meditative “Wondering” before JoJo Hermann took the vocal helm for a larger-than-life retelling of Sugarman’s heroics in “1×1”.

A bouncing ride through the “Old Neighborhood” came to a screeching halt as JoJo led the band and the “Goodpeople” into a seedy, back-alley “Dark Bar”. John Bell retook the vocal reins to triumphantly return to the tribute to the passionate fanbase, switching out the lyrics to “the ones your grandmaw warned you about!”

Next, Panic honored fallen peer and Athens musician Daniel Hutchens with a performance of Bloodkin’s “Trashy” for the only the sixth time ever. Concluding the first set on par with the customary hour-long runtime, the band bursted forth from the cocoon of “Conrad”, evolving into a transformative jam unbound by the physical realm.


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Returning for the second set, Widespread brought the carnival to town with a fan-favorite cover of David Bromberg’s “Sharon”. Like opening a barrel of monkeys, once unleashed, the crowd’s excitement never waned. A galloping “Action Man” crossed the finish line before Jimmy Herring dropped bait, hook, and line to reel in “Bear’s Gone Fishing”.

Next, Dave Schools took lead vocals for Vic Chesnutt’s “Blight” while feeding the fire to ward off the encroaching darkness and evil spirits. As the audience circled around Schools’ campfire, JB’s warm vocals embraced the crowd with on “I’m Not Alone” (“I’m feeling a little bit easier now / knowing that you’re all here!”) as Jimmy Herring took a victory lap around the cosmos.

Related: Widespread Panic Frontman John Bell Talks Getting COVID-19 & Returning To The Road [Interview]

For only the second time since its appropriate debut at NOLAween last month, Widespread Panic performed new tune “Halloween Face” in all its spooky glory. JB’s vocals crackled like fried chicken skin before being devoured by a monster tail-end jam led by Schools and Herring.

Duane Trucks rolled into “Diner” with the consistent certainty of the tidal flow or the morning’s sunrise. The band stumbled out of the Duane’s car to fill their bellies and souls on warm coffee and sonic nourishment. After a call-and-response between JoJo, Schools, and Herring, and subsequent breakdown, JB’s wild imagination painted an incredibly vivid picture of his “high school sweetheart / waking up early this morning / couldn’t sleep / opening the back door early / it’s cold outside / it’s creepin’ in / some of yesterday’s coffee all warmed up in that new-fangled microwave, nice! / little jukebox music too / If I can look at you, if I can just look at you, just look hard enough at you / I might turn to light / like an icicle melting / in a little sunlight / down through the trees / slidin’ down to my rooftop / over the Christmas lights / leaning against my coffee cup / and muffin / keeping them warmer, longer / hanging in the light / no school / it’s been too long.”

JB’s descriptive improvisation was on full display to the tribal rhythms of Sonny Ortiz’s percussions and JoJo’s lingering organ notes. As the band heated up to close out the song, the trance-like spell that they had conjured carried over into “Dream Song”. Those in attendance have differing accounts of this half-hour of music, as it became impossible to tell what was real and what was imagined—like one of those good dreams that creeps in right before the alarm clock, one that you could slip back into even after waking.

To finish out the second set, Widespread Panic performed their go-to combination pairing of The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature”. JB’s vocals were electrifying as him and Schools elevated the tune to higher levels and both Herring and JoJo cut scorching solos into the closer’s back half.

Returning for encore, the band honored their fallen friend and former drummer, Todd Nance, with an emotionally charged performance of “Down”. Before digging his heels into the tune, JB introduced the song (“Here’s one that was served to us by the late, great Todd Nance”) and proceeded to carve the attendees’ emotions into tattered shreds. With tears still flowing, Panic concluded the second night of this long-awaited Chicago stand with an homage to Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul”.

Widespread Panic – “Down” – 11/18/21

[Video: MrTopdogger]

A lunar eclipse provided some natural entertainment for the late-night lunatics. While some divulged in food and drink, others rested for the final night ahead. Widespread Panic closes this three-night sojourn at the Chicago Theatre tonight, Friday, November 19th. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here. Scroll down to check out a gallery of images courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.

Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Chicago Theatre | Chicago, IL | 11/18/21

Set One: Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Wondering > 1×1, Old Neighborhood, Good People > Dark Bar > Good People, Trashy, Conrad (63 mins)

Set Two: Sharon, Action Man, Bear’s Gone Fishin’ > Blight, I’m Not Alone, Halloween Face, Diner > Dream Song, No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature (91 mins)

Encore: Down, Mr Soul (13 mins)