Only three days after celebrating the band’s 37th birthday, Widespread Panic made its glorious return to Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina last night. Now disappearing in the rearview, the bittersweet memories of Mexico and WSP’s 10th destination event, Panic en la Playa, faded as surely as our sunburn peeled (“…but they never took our smiles!”). The band refocused their attention toward the intimate atmosphere of Durham’s newest entertainment venue. Just like when the powerhouse rockers helped christen DPAC’s stage in 2019, the sell-out crowd once more packed the place as nearly 3,000 music-loving acolytes made the pilgrimage to North Carolina.

Kicking off the first night’s festivities, WSP launched into Van Morrison’s “Send Your Mind”. This jaunty tune was also the opening track of the band’s eponymous second studio album. John “JoJo” Hermann warmed up his piano with a classic retelling of his first gig with the band during “One Arm Steve” before Jimmy Herring charged through the screen door of “Holden Oversoul” to gallop unbridled into a blazing jam segment.

Vocalist John Bell eased into an emotive performance of Jorma Kaukonen’s “Genesis” until passing the baton back to JoJo for a bountiful harvest of “Cotton was King”. Winding down the first frame, Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz introduced a hard-hitting “Cease Fire” which progressed into the trippy dreamland of “Jamais Vu”, just as they had done on 2015’s Street Dogs. A feisty cover of Tom Petty’s “Honey Bee” closed the set with a bang as the audience buzzed merrily, searching for more sweet nectar.


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Sauntering out of the shadows and back on stage, Panic slowly meandered into a heart-wrenching rendition of Vic Chesnutt’s “Aunt Avis” before picking up the pace for a peppy “You Should Be Glad”. Few in attendance needed the reminder, but they sure welcomed the ensuing jams. (“We sang songs of liberty… / Kinda takes the sting out of occupation!”)

The string of originals continued as Dave Schools strolled through “Wondering” until breaking down the music for a spiritual “Hatfield”. John Bell was in the zone as he rapped about “Hatfield’s German mama,” her two-string banjo, and the magic she created with it, and Hatfield’s science kit. (“One day Imma learn how to make rain / magic run in that family.”)

The smoking tail end jam of “Hatfield” descended into the well-dug grave of Bloodkin’s “Henry Parson Died”. After giving the rowdy crowd time to settle down, Panic kept the funereal bangers coming with “Dyin’ Man” before switching up the traditional sequence of “Barstools and Dreamers” into the instrumental “Machine”. Last night was the first time that these two songs were played in reverse order since the band’s Nashville run at Ascend Amphitheatre in 2018. Putting the finishing touches on the second helping, JB stirred a simmering cauldron of “Thought Sausage” for a zesty finale.

Widespread Panic returned to the Durham Performing Arts Center stage for the last time of the night for a three-song encore. A rare “Old Joe” led the pack (“I hope you live long and lucky!”), which WSP paired with a second original, “Walkin’ (For Your Love)”. To wrap up the first night of debauchery and rock and roll, WSP uncaged all the animals for a wild performance of James Taylor’s “Knockin’ Round the Zoo” (“On a Thursday afternoon…”).

Schools took the microphone to announce that the song was nearly 60 years old before winding down the raucous music to its natural conclusion and ending the first of three shows. The traditional weekend run was bumped up a night to avoid competing with the Super Bowl on Sunday, making this song the perfect tune to end Thursday’s show.

Two more nights of mischievous chicanery ahead for the swamp rockers and their dedicated followers. Man, oh, man, hope they strapped down the town and reinforced all structures because that zoo quickly turned into a stampede. There is nothing like “Panic on the Streets.” Until tomorrow, folks.


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Widespread Panic – “Holden Oversoul” – 2/9/23

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Widespread Panic – “Cease Fire” – 2/9/23

[Video: whereshaynes]

Widespread Panic – “You Should Be Glad” – 2/9/23

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Widespread Panic – “Old Joe” – 2/9/23

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Setlist: Widespread Panic | Durham Performing Arts Center | Durham, NC | 2/9/23

Set 1: Send Your Mind (Van Morrison), One Arm Steve, Holden Oversoul > Jam > Genesis (Jorma Kaukonen) > Cotton Was King, Cease Fire > Jamais Vu, Honey Bee (Tom Petty) (54 mins)

Set 2: Aunt Avis (Vic Chesnutt) > You Should Be Glad, Wondering > Jam > Hatfield > Henry Parsons Died (Bloodkin), Dyin’ Man, Barstools and Dreamers > Machine, Thought Sausage (83 mins)

Encore: Old Joe, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Knocking ‘Round The Zoo (James Taylor) (17 mins)

Notes – Last time ‘Barstools and Dreamers’ led into ‘Machine’ (9/01/18 Nashville)