Widespread Panic continued a long history of Halloween debauchery on Saturday for the second show of a three-night run at Uno Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
A cool breeze blew in off the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, adding a chill to the evening. Like the night prior, the kings of jam-rock carved out a setlist of hard-hitting originals mixed a smattering of covers—including one monster debut of a beloved song by a New Orleans music legend.
In Halloween tradition, Widespread opened the show with a pairing of festive covers. After first serving up Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, JoJo Hermann’s piano faded and the music segued into a funereal procession of Bloodkin’s “Henry Parson’s Died”. It didn’t take long for Jimmy Herring to soar with a solo that would have made the late Daniel Hutchens proud. A second line honoring Hutchens’ memory had also paraded through the streets of ‘Nawlins earlier in the weekend.
Widespread Panic – “Werewolves of London” (Warren Zevon) – 10/30/21
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Getting into their own catalogue, Panic dug up a prehistoric “Big Wooly Mammoth” and resurrected it like Lazarus for a zombie parade around the French Quarter. JoJo’s piano sliced through the mix as he unabashedly admitted, “Sometimes I feel like an evolutionary reject / Livin’ in a high-tech world” while Jimmy Herring explored the unfathomable depths of the universe.
The third cover of the evening came early in the first set with a soul-extracting rendition Vic Chesnutt’s “Aunt Avis”. JoJo’s organ, John Bell’s unhinged vocals, and Jimmy Herring’s sizzling guitar blended to wreak havoc on the unprotected minds of the audience. This first set treat came as an early highlight of the night.
JoJo shuffled over to his piano for the introduction of “Greta” while the devilish Dave Schools yipped, yelped, and yowled to rile up the ravenous crowd. Schools stayed in peak form throughout a bombastic “Second Skin” in honor of the costumes in the audience (“These are the shapes we’ve taken in / Real life our dreaming”).
Panic jammed out on an extended performance of “Rebirtha” before closing out the frame with a galloping “Action Man”. JoJo’s clavinet brought the funk to a “town where real life’s a game / Baseball’s all that’s real / At night all the faces light up / As the players take the field.” Appropriately, the Atlanta Braves are currently competing for a World Series Championship.
Upon return from set break, Widespread Panic loaded up the New Orleans crowd and took off on an “Airplane”. With Herring as the pilot, the tempo accelerated until reaching terminal velocity, at which point the landing gear deployed and the plane cruised into Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman”. Keeping the stream of music flowing, Panic finished off the string of non-stop jams with a fan-favorite cover of Winston Riley’s “Arleen”.
Widespread Panic – “Airplane” – 10/30/21
Widespread Panic – “Pusherman” (Curtis Mayfield) > “Arleen” (Winston Riley) – 10/30/21
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
The first of two second set sandwiches followed with a sizzling “Disco” smack dab in the middle of a hard-hitting “Papa’s Home”. A classic take on “Jack” broke up the uninterrupted stream before the second sandwich of the set trailed close by. This time, it was a bouncy “Love Tractor” ride splitting a raucous “Chilly Water”, complete with flying water and, subsequently, running mascara. To close out the second set, Panic paid tribute to Tom Petty with a candid cut of “You Wreck Me” for only the 13th time ever.
More tasty treats were brought to light for the encore as Widespread Panic returned from the shadows to cover the Talking Heads’ “City of Dreams”. As per usual when they play this song south of the Mason-Dixie line, the crowd roared their approval of the lyrics “From Germany and Europe / and Southern U.S.A.!” Panic then honored New Orleans jazz legend, Dr. John, with a debut cover of “Such A Night” JoJo took lead vocals for this staggering surprise. (“If I don’t do it / somebody else will!”). Finally, to end the evening’s celebrations, Panic issued the triumphant closing reminder, “Ain’t Life Grand?”
Widespread Panic – “Such A Night” (Dr. John) – 10/30/21
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Eric Carter and Bloodkin hosted an after party at Santos Bar for the nocturnal vagrants, while most took it easy to reenergize for the Sunday finale to close the Halloween run. As is tradition, Widespread Panic will perform a themed show full of whacky gags, surprise covers, and off-the-wall shenanigans. If 2019’s NOLAween show taught us anything, it’s “never trust a prankster.”
Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Uno Lakefront Arena | New Orleans, LA | 10/30/21
Set One: Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon) > Henry Parsons Died (Bloodkin), Big Wooly Mammoth, Aunt Avis (Vic Chesnutt), Greta, Second Skin, Rebirtha > Action Man (73 mins)
Set Two: Airplane > Pusherman (Curtis Mayfield) > Arleen (Winston Riley), Papa’s Home > Disco > Papa’s Home, Jack > Chilly Water > Love Tractor > Chilly Water, You Wreck Me (Tom Petty) (75 mins)
Encore: City of Dreams (Talking Heads), Such A Night (Dr. John), Ain’t Life Grand (18 mins)
Notes – ‘Werewolves of London’ LTP 1/29/18 Playa (105 shows)
– ‘Such A Night’ First time played (Dr John)
After – Bloodkin @ Santos Bar