After three days on the banks of the Potomac River, Widespread Panic concluded its weekend with a Sunday finale at The Theater in MGM at National Harbor. The six-piece band was tighter than ever as they worked through a blended setlist of fan-favorite covers and hard-hitting originals melded together for a sharp-edged alloy of sequential jams and badass debauchery.
Panic opened the show guns a-blazing with a jaunty cover of Alan Price’s “Sell Sell” before John Bell led the group into “Chilly Water”. Last night’s performance was unusual as JB was the sole contributor and delivered the first verse, just him and his guitar. The rest of the band jumped in for the chorus, bringing an overload of energy and finishing the song business as usual. A percussive breakdown between Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz also split this lengthy rendition.
An early first set “Hatfield” allowed JB to embrace the improvisational spirits. The imaginative vocalist made the most of the opportunity by entering a prolonged trance to deliver a signature off-the-wall rap: “I remember Hatfield’s mama / beautiful lady / aura going out all across the neighborhood / everything was black and white but she had technicolor eyes / one day, me and Hatfield were laying in the backyard after school / we were done playing / it was so hot, hot, hot, hot / we just laid back and listened to the wind / listened to the wind blow and the clouds burst / dancing out on a stream of sound / coming from the inside / Hatfield’s mama in her corner comfy chair / plucking on her three-string banjo / making the music of the spheres.”
Jimmy Herring grabbed the reins to sizzle through a scorching selection of originals as “Christmas Katie” segued into “Radio Child” before taking to the skies during “Airplane”. The music flowed uninterrupted with “Take-Off Jam” landing into “Jaded Tourist”. JoJo Hermann’s piano and vocals took the forefront as he playfully switched some of his lyrics such as “Water lines in the alley / high and dry” and “You kill the weakest and the herd runs strong / You kill the strongest and you kill the herd.”
Winding down the first set with a pair of covers, the gang took a walk through a haunted cemetery during infamous Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues” before Jerry Joseph’s “North” bookmarked the halfway point of the show.
Back from set break, Dave Schools grabbed the bull by the horns as he wrestled his bass into an extended “Second Skin”. Afterward, JoJo’s piano introduced a howlin’ “Greta” which made landfall with the force of a category five hurricane. Jimmy Herring’s off-the-cuff guitar wizardry maintained a predominant role but especially throughout “Greta” and the subsequent cover of Willie Dixon’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind”.
From here until the end of the second set, WSP could not be stopped as the band charged on, uninterrupted as John Bell performed an emotional take on Vic Chesnutt’s “Aunt Avis” before continuing into the first half of “Driving Song”. The tune broke down in the middle and reemerged as Michael Stanley’s “Let’s Get This Show on the Road” for its first appearance this year.
An improvised jam and drums section then carried the music into the latter half of “Driving Song”. The blazing instrumental “Disco” ignited the venue until JoJo extinguished the second set with a bawdy “Blackout Blues” after the music flowed unbroken for just under an hour straight.
Returning for the encore, Widespread Panic performed Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” for only the second time ever since its debut at the New Year’s Eve makeup shows in August at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. To wrap up the Maryland run, WSP performed “Postcard” in the same rowdy style that has made this band famous and well-loved to end summer “tour.”
With only a handful of shows on the schedule for this year, Panic will be headline Mempho Music Festival in Memphis, TN on October 1st and 2nd, as well as performing another annual run in Milwaukee on October 21st–23rd, before playing in Savannah for Halloween on October 28th and 29th, and finally New Year’s Eve in Nashville on December 30th and 31st. After that, WSP heads to Mexico for Panic en la Playa Once on January 14th–17th to ball like Jordan in ’23.
Full show audio of Sunday’s show is also available on PanicStream.
Widespread Panic –The Theater at MGM National Harbor – Oxon Hill, MD – 9/18/22
Setlist: Widespread Panic | The Theater at MGM National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD | 9/18/22
Set One: Sell Sell (Alan Price), Chilly Water , Hatfield, Christmas Katie > Radio Child, Airplane > Take-Off Jam > Jaded Tourist, Me and the Devil Blues (Robert Johnson), North (Jerry Joseph) (77 mins)
Set Two: Second Skin > Greta > Weak Brain, Narrow Mind (Willie Dixon), Aunt Avis (Vic Chesnutt) > Driving Song > Let’s Get The Show On The Road (Michael Stanley) > Jam > Drums > Driving Song > Disco > Blackout Blues (83 mins)
Encore Bird On A Wire (Leonard Cohen), Postcard (12 mins)
 JB solo until first chorus