Widespread Panic’s penultimate run of the year is the zenith of spooky season with two shows at the newly finished Enmarket Arena in Savannah, GA. Opening in February 2022, the arena holds just under 10,000 people and the dedicated followers packed it to capacity. Widespread honored the host city with special lyrical tributes scattered throughout the setlist.
The six-piece group of jam rock titans shuffled onstage, and the audience immediately erupted in loud bursts of cheers upon recognizing John Bell’s backward cap. Getting down to business, WSP strolled through a “Wondering” opener before experimenting with nitroglycerine during a scorching “Little Kin”. The steady hands of Jimmy Herring titrated the caustic ingredients to catalyze a calculated reaction of explosiveness from the depths of his gold PRS guitar.
After Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz descended into the heavy rhythms of “Rock”, the vocal strength of the group was on full display as JB, Dave Schools, and JoJo Hermann worked together to finish off the tune. Putting on his apron to set up his personal grill, a saucy JB equipped a metal slide to serve up a smoking platter of “Ribs and Whiskey”.
A blazing “Disco” infernal instrumental kept the fire burning before WSP sharpened its mystical daggers to penetrate into the audience’s souls with a piercing cover of Vic Chesnutt’s “Aunt Avis”. The rolling drums of” Diner” interrupted the trance and lifted the crowd from the lingering melancholy. JB’s brutally honest rap awakened the audience like a bucket of ice-cold water: “Little sunshine peepin’ ‘tween the houses / Skippin’ thru the glass / Resting on my coffee cup / Keep it warm a little longer / A little longer / Just make this moment last / Hanging’ in the light / Baskin’ in the light of Ms. Lee / And a smile / Make me weep / Happiness never lasts.”
A funky finish carried into a lively version of J.J Cale’s “Ride Me High” led by JoJo’s vocals and Herring’s fatty-McDaddy guitar riffs. Jimmy Herring continued to favor his golden axe and JoJo his organ as Panic closed out the lengthy first frame with a jaunty performance of Jerry Joseph’s “North”. Fans that are patiently holding out until Panic en la Playa rejoiced to the lyrics “Haul you back to Mexico / Send me back to school!” as P.E.L.P. Once inches ever closer on the horizon.
Opening the second set with another instrumental, WSP executed Link Wray & His Ray Men’s “Rumble” for the ninth time since its debut at 2017’s Fear and Loathing Halloween show in Vegas. Like the Lone Ranger, JB took the reins for a solo trek into “Chilly Water” before the rest of the group jumped in at the first chorus.
Widespread Panic left it incomplete, however, as the band switched gears for a rowdy rendition of Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama”. Always selecting songs to befit the time and place, George Clinton’s tune opens with the lyrics, “Red hot mama from Louisiana / Thumbin’ her way to Savannah / She been cooped up too long!” Panic then returned to the second half of “Chilly Water” to test the structural integrity of the new venue more thoroughly than any engineer ever could.
Charging forward, WSP stepped back into the feudal age to retell the story of “Jack” as Schools pointed his finger pistol with a mischievous smirk toward someone in the crowd. Sunny waved his hand through his windchimes as JB honored the first game of the World Series with the apt baseball reference, “Gone to pitch for the winning team.”
After the first pause of the set, WSP tuned in for an electrifying “Radio Child” before turning the dial to the frequency of “Up All Night”. The beloved original contains the geographically appropriate lyrics, “Well, I can’t sleep, I’ve been up all night / Laughing in Savannah with the Bay Street moon.” Flying through the second set, Panic spread its wings over a complete “Surprise Valley” which—after a percussive breakdown—morphed into a triumphant version of “I’m Not Alone”.
Next, Duane and JoJo collaborated to revive a behemoth “Big Wooly Mammoth” for a prehistoric romp around the arena. JoJo included a (somewhat morbid) tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away earlier on Friday: “Just like Jerry Lee Lewis / You gotta lay down low.” Like a (whiskey) barrel tumbling down a waterfall, WSP closed out the second set with a tumultuous take on “All Time Low”.
Sauntering out of the shadows, Widespread Panic came back for a three-song encore. Dave Schools immediately resurrected the energetic vibes with the opening bass notes of Bobby Rush and Calvin Carter’s “Bowlegged Woman.” For JB’s second rap of the night, his improvisation was reminiscent of a young man trying to charm a lady to stay the night: “Waiting for this AC to come on to stretch out / Put on a little record / Put on a little of that Trax / No, no, no, no, I didn’t say you were trash / Hey baby take a walk around my head / It’s a tribute to my past / Wonder what it is, you’ve been dreaming about / Close, slow / … / Make you feel right / Tonight / I don’t know if I believe in fate / But I believe in you.”
For the second choice, WSP covered Talking Heads’ “City of Dreams”. As per tradition anytime this song is played in Dixieland, the audience erupted enthusiastically when the words “Southern U.S.A” were sung. To end the first night, Panic returned to its own catalog for “Halloween Face”. Marking the 11th performance since its debut at last year’s NOLAween, the heavy jams and whacky lyrics built ravenous anticipation for tomorrow’s festivities.
Don’t change the channel because Widespread Panic returns to the Enmarket Arena tonight for what will be sure to be a wild and crazy night. Have a safe and spooky weekend, Goodpeople.
Widespread Panic – “Wondering”, “Little Kin” [Pro-Shot] – 10/28/22
Widespread Panic – “Diner” > “Ride Me High” (J.J. Cale) – 10/28/22
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Widespread Panic – “Chilly Water” > “Red Hot Mama” (Parliament-Funkadelic) > “Chilly Water” – 10/28/22
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Widespread Panic – “Bowlegged Woman” (Bobby Rush, Calvin Carter) – 10/28/22
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Widespread Panic – “City of Dreams” (Talking Heads), “Halloween Face” – 10/28/22
[Video: Robbie Massengill]
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Enmarket Arena | Savannah, GA | 10/28/22
Set One: Wondering, Little Kin, Rock, Ribs and Whiskey, Disco, Aunt Avis, Diner > Ride Me High, North (82 mins)
Set Two: Rumble > Chilly Water > Red Hot Mama > Chilly Water > Jack, Radio Child, Up All Night, Surprise Valley > I’m Not Alone, Big Wooly Mammoth, All Time Low (80 mins)
Encore: Bowlegged Woman, City of Dreams, Halloween Face (28 mins)
Notes – ‘Chilly Water’ w/ JB solo until first chorus
– JoJo with a Jerry Lee Lewis (RIP) shoutout during ‘Big Wooly Mammoth’
– Last time ‘Bowlegged Woman’ was in the encore slot was 5 years ago tonight in Las Vegas
– Entire show with Edie Jackson (ASL interpreter)