Jam juggernauts Widespread Panic brought their unstoppable act back to the sprawling vantages of Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. Traditionally, Panic has stopped at this venue on the last weekend in June for the last 20 or so years, and last night marked the 64th consecutive sell-out for the kings of rock and roll. Panic packed a punch with a pointed setlist that acknowledged feelings of loneliness and desertion, a call to arms, and sympathy towards women, their unheard voices, and their renewed fight for reproductive freedom in response to yesterday’s heart wrenching reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Kicking off the weekend’s festivities, Panic soared into a psychedelic “Pigeons”. Jimmy Herring didn’t waste any time as he launched into his first high-voltage guitar solo. Digging through their blues archives, Panic dusted off Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” before introducing the first half of the raucous party anthem “Chilly Water”. The veteran audience members wearing rain jackets and waterproof ponchos stayed dry as water was thrown from cups and containers into the air.
Instead of finishing the tune, Panic slid into fIREHOSE’s “Sometimes.” After a quick pause, WSP moved into another beloved fan favorite, Jorma Kaukonen’s “Genesis”. John Bell cut deep with the emotionally charged lyrics before Jimmy Herring put the pedal to the floor, accelerating into the night. Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz worked double time on their percussive kits, matching the quickened tempo with a casual coolness as JoJo took the helm and steered the musical voyage into “Big Wooly Mammoth”.
The high-altitude jam flourished before evolving into the raging conclusion of “Chilly Water”. The tune may have finished but the unbroken stream of music would continue into set break. Dave Schools anchored the meandering transitional jam, giving new purpose and meaning to Vic Chesnutt’s “Blight”. This performance of the tune was particularly somber and featured a direct response from Schools in regard to the most recent political abomination, the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court: “Stand by your woman cause her body is her fuckin’ own!” Later, he included, “We are stronger together, we have to stick together.”
Related: Dead & Company Show Support For Women In Chicago After Supreme Court Overturns Roe V. Wade [Videos]
Jimmy Herring dished out handfuls of lightning as the music wound down briefly before JoJo resurrected the vibe with an energetic “Greta”. Rounding out the set, Panic performed “Space Wrangler”, growing from an embryonic state into a cosmic cowboy, complete with tappin’ spurs, smokin’ pistols, and a thirst for whiskey and cold beer. Like Gandalf after the Battle of Helms Deep, Jimmy Herring led the charge down the mountaintop with his hands in the reins of his white stallion, running wild and free before closing the gate on the first frame.
The unrelenting audience roared their approval when Panic returned to the stage for round two. By this time, night had fallen upon the valley below, and Paul Hoffman’s stage lighting became more meaningful. Picking up right where they left off, the Panics came out swinging and performed “You Wreck Me” to pay tribute to the late Tom Petty. Cranking up the intensity, the band shook the mountain amphitheater with a hard-hitting “You Got Yours” before slowing it down for a mellow “C. Brown”.
Schools led the band through a bouncing transition as Lucy became “Little Lilly” before another segue blazed into an electrifying “Radio Child”. As JB punctuated the song with the choice words “precious baby, precious baby,” WSP maintained momentum and tumbled into “All Time Low” until slowing down the pace for a sentimental cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied”.
Winding down the second set, WSP taxied down the runway as “Airplane” took off and soared serenely above the clouds. However, the Herring-induced turbulence and lightning storms caused the band to maneuver into an emergency landing in the valley below. Hungry, the band stumbled into the sanctuary of a nearby “Diner” where JB quickly ordered some of yesterday’s coffee and donuts. To finish the set with an ecstatic bang, JB busted out his mandolin for an uplifting “Ain’t Life Grand”.
Upon return for encore, Widespread Panic performed Solomon Burke’s “None of Us Are Free”. The title speaks for itself in relation to the night’s theme, but the potent lyrics, “And if we don’t say it’s wrong then that says it’s right,” resounded powerfully. To follow, the Panics covered Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” to bookend the first night of the Red Rocks run.
Just as passengers in a car all see and remember different aspects of a road trip, music affects every person differently as well. To me, this is one of the most beautiful things about music—how someone can internalize meaningful messages on a subjective level, individually and yet simultaneously as a group. Messages that may or may not be intentional by the musicians. However, with this band—in my years, experiences, and memory—everything is intentional.
With two more nights on the horizon, get some rest while you can, good people. Those stairs will wear down even the most trained calves and muscles. Until tomorrow!
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 6/24/22
Set 1: Pigeons, Let It Rock > Chilly Water > Sometimes, Genesis > Big Wooly Mammoth > Chilly Water > Blight > Greta > Space Wrangler (75 mins)
Set 2: You Wreck Me, You Got Yours, C Brown > Little Lilly > Jam > Radio Child, All Time Low, Don’t Be Denied, Airplane > Diner, Ain’t Life Grand* (86 mins)
Encore: None Of Us Are Free, Lawyers Guns and Money (11 mins)
* w/ JB on mandolin
– ‘None of Us Are Free’ LTP 8/24/18 Lockn (114 shows)
– DAS during ‘Blight’: “Stand by your woman cause her body is her fuckin’ own” & “We are stronger together, we have to stick together.”