Widespread Panic concluded its three-show residency at the Chicago Theatre on Friday night. A chilly breeze blew across Lake Michigan and through the city streets as a full moon brought the lunatics out in droves. As cold as it was outside the venue, the band was cooking inside with a rare opener, a smokin’ debut, two sandwiches in each set, and a bust-out for an encore on top of the traditional blend of originals and heavy jams.
Immediately energizing the eager crowd, Widespread charged into the final night with War’s “Slippin’ into Darkness” appearing in the opening slot. Tour manager Steve Lopez joined the Panics onstage to add percussive layers. Last night marked only the fourth time WSP featured the tune in the opening slot. With a lunar eclipse the night prior and a full moon last night, the lunatics joined John Bell in singing the lyrics: “You know he loves to drink good whiskey/ While laughing at the moon!”
Finishing the rest of the set with all originals, JB cooked up a saucy “Thought Sausage”. The singer experimented with a new recipe that was taught to him by a voodoo priest during the Halloween run in New Orleans last month. JB beckoned the crowd to “Come N’ git it!” before the simmering cauldron of gumbo boiled over.
As they ate, JoJo Hermann shepherded the wild animals in the audience through “Greta”, which featured Dave Schools howling in delight between spoonfuls of soup. Like a mighty pendulum, Schools swung the direction into a steady “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” with characteristic nonchalance.
To follow, Jimmy Herring personified the lyrics of “Jack” as the “wizard in the corner” who used his arcane knowledge to transport the zealous Chicago crowd back into the Feudal Age among the court of King Arthur. Rounding out the first set, Panic performed a classic combination of “Driving Song” with a blistering “Disco” smack dab in the middle. To wrap up the first frame like a Yule time present, JB described a tender scene of a father racing home to his family for the holidays with a spirited, and unseparated “Papa’s Home”.
Returning for the second set, Panic imitated Pops Staples’ forlorn cry of desperate optimism in “Hope in a Hopeless World” before testing the structural integrity of the venue’s foundation with a rowdy “Chilly Water”. As is tradition, water flew from the confines of their cups and bottles and further dehydrated the feral savages in their seats.
JoJo commandeered the vocal helm for a pastoral “drive up to Thacker Mountain” in “Visiting Day” before Panic began one of the most impressive double-decker sandwiches to date. A soaring “Surprise Valley” was halfway through when the melody warped into a jaw-dropping debut of Leon Russell’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”. The debut also got split in half as Panic squeezed in a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” before returning to finish the second halves of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Surprise Valley” respectively. All said and done, it was nearly a half-hour of consecutive jams.
Widespread Panic – “Stranger in a Strange Land” – Chicago Theatre – 11/19/21
Finishing out the last set of the Chicago run, WSP kept it classic with back-to-back fan-favorite originals. A spectral “Blue Indian” haunted the Loop before an electrifying “Ain’t Life Grand” closed the frame with a glorious bang.
Celebrating a successful three-day run with a victory lap, Widespread Panic encored “Straight to Hell” for the second time ever. Panic debuted the Drivin N Cryin tune back on October 25th, 2015 at Milwaukee, WI’s Riverside Theatre. To end the amazing night, Widespread honored all the Midwestern farmers with a bouncing ride on the John Deere with “Love Tractor”. While fueling the tank, Herring drank some of the diesel and traded a simple dirt road for a trip across the universe.
Just like the song, WSP will race to its home venue for the holidays performing four nights at the fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA on December 28th–31st for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza. These will be the last shows of 2021 as we look ahead with the hope of a full schedule of dates in 2022. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.
Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone, a time to be grateful for what we have. For me, it’s a badass band that returns to five nights in New York City, but for others, it may be some quality time in Atlanta or possibly, Mexico. See you down the road, folks.
Scroll down to check out a detailed setlist of the performance and read our coverage of night one and night two of Widespread Panic’s three-night run at Chicago Theatre. A gallery of images is available courtesy of photographer Bill McAlaine.
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Setlist: Widespread Panic | Chicago Theatre | Chicago, IL | 11/19/21
Set One: Slippin’ Into Darkness , Thought Sausage, Greta > Walkin’ (For Your Love), Jack, Driving Song > Disco > Driving Song, Papa’s Home
Set Two: Hope In A Hopeless World, Chilly Water, Visiting Day, Surprise Valley > Stranger In A Strange Land > A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan)  > Stranger In A Strange Land (Leon Russell)  > Surprise Valley, Blue Indian, Ain’t Life Grand
Encore: Straight To Hell (Drivin N Cryin) , Love Tractor
 w/Steve Lopez on percussion; 4th time as opener
 LTP 3/31/19 Durham (64 shows)
 LTP 10/25/15 Milwaukee (229 shows); 2nd time played