The kings of jam rock finished out their three-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado with a heroic conclusion. To follow Saturday night’s three-set show, Widespread Panic shuffled back onstage to hammer home another one of a kind show. The music was delayed due to a heavy hailstorm during the day and some scattered thunderstorms during the afternoon.
The band kicked the first set off with a cover of the fan favorite “Let’s Get The Show on the Road” by Michael Stanley. Panic played this last in Birmingham, Alabama only a half dozen shows ago, so it was a surprise to hear it played it again so soon. Dave Schools led the jam on a bass-heavy “Bear’s Gone Fishin’” from Til’ The Medicine Takes.
The boys nailed a blues cover of Willie Dixon’s “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” with a standout performance by John Bell on vocals and a constant barrage of lightning guitar notes from Jimmy Herring. JoJo Hermann’s dancing keys faded as Herring’s guitar sawed out the opening notes to “Cotton was King” the last track on Dirty Side Down. The high-energy was maintained with an aggressive cover of David Bromberg’s “Old Neighborhood” from Night of Joy notoriety. John Bell aced the vocals with his incredible range and power.
With the announcement of Panic en la Playa Ocho returning to Riviera Maya in Mexico, Panic fittingly played another cut from Night of Joy, a rowdy version of “Bust It Big.” As the song intensified, JoJo and most of the audience heartedly sang, “Gonna pour my shots and ride my ticket down…. To MEXICO!” The slow kick of Duane and Sonny’s kits revealed “Diner” to be the next song. Always coveted by the hungry fans, John Bell absorbed all spiritual energies from this mystical venue to annihilate this tune from Everyday with all the salacious raps included.
The still-smoldering musicians transitioned directly into the instrumental jam “Take Out” from their debut album Space Wrangler. The calm, upbeat tone of “Take Out” was abandoned for and replaced with the psychedelic fury of “Pigeons”. From the band’s self-titled second album, this track exploded with chaos and uncontainable ferocity. After several breakdowns and build-ups, the band drove the energy to a breaking point and ended the first set with the audience still enraptured by the lingering echoes of the tune.
Upon returning from set break, the boys appropriately dove into a delicious rendition of Vic Chestnutt’s “Let’s Get Down to Business.” The band opened with this song on the first set of New Year’s Eve, and the audience reacted fanatically. To follow, they cut a sharp cover of Jerry Joseph’s “Chainsaw City.” John Bell was on lead vocals, Dave Schools supported with backup vocals, JoJo scorched the organ, and Jimmy Herring transmuted notes of gold like an eternal alchemist.
JoJo led a visionary musical quest with heartfelt vocals on “Visiting Day” from Dirty Side Down. Jimmy Herring electrified with a wicked solo, and JoJo danced all over his multiple keyboards. John Bell dazzled with a version of “Up All Night” from Free Somehow. The percussionists shared a few minutes alone to molly-whop their kits before the rest of the band returned to play their necessary tribute to Colorado with “Surprise Valley” from Til’ the Medicine Takes.
Another obligatory ode to the west followed with the boys playing a dirty cover of Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West.” Schools punished the bass-line with his powerful hands, and John Bell’s gritty voice–as if he was raised solely on muddy water–exemplified the swampy nature of this band. For only the second time ever, the musicians played an unbelievable cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, marking the second WSP performance of the song ever, following its debut cover in 2014 at Charlotte’s NYE show. Like flicking a switch, John Bell was able to clean up his voice from Tom Waits’ razor-sharp jagged rasps to Bill Withers’ pristine crystalline soulfulness. The boys knocked this out of the park with ease like the Incredible Hulk playing T-ball.
For only the third time in five years, Panic played a version of War’s “Four Cornered Room” which many fans have been chasing for their entire lives. The band sizzled and captivated as most of the audience stood transfixed with incredulity. To close out the second set of music, the boys hammered an appropriate “Ain’t Life Grand” from the self-titled album. Panic hit all the right notes by giving the audience a chance to shake and dance to JoJo’s flawless piano playing, Herring’s ripping guitar riffs, School’s consistent thumpin’, and John Bell’s emotionally distraught vocals.
To encore, the band gave a nod to Union Station during a captivating rendition of “You Should Be Glad” from their album Earth to America. A heavy, psychedelic bounce provided everyone in attendance and streaming with a reason to “Be glad; to be happy just being alive.” To conclude the epic three-night run, the boys paid tribute to Tom Petty with a version of “You Wreck Me” that they have only played once before in Milwaukee of last year.
Next weekend, Widespread Panic will be at Mud Island Amphitheatre on June 29th and June 30th in Memphis, TN. Until next time: stay happy, stay safe. Life is grand, you should be glad.
Let’s Get This Show On The Road
Let’s Get Down To Business
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 6/24/18
I: Let’s Get The Show On The Road, Bear’s Gone Fishin’ > Weak Brain, Narrow Mind, Cotton Was King, Old Neighborhood, Bust It Big, Diner > The Take Out, Pigeons (79 mins)
II: Let’s Get Down To Business, Chainsaw City, Visiting Day, Up All Night, Drum Solo > Surprise Valley > Goin’ Out West > Ain’t No Sunshine > Four Cornered Room, Ain’t Life Grand (80 mins)
E: You Should Be Glad, You Wreck Me (16 mins)
Notes: [‘Highway to Heaven’ and ‘In The Garden’ raps during ‘Diner’; ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ LTP 12/31/14 Charlotte (191 shows) – 2nd time played]