The ragged and spiritually hungry masses stumbled through the doors of Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium for one last night of merciful absolution and divine righteousness. As they have done the entire run, Widespread Panic consecrated the setlist with rare bust-outs, another guest appearance by an old friend, and three songs that were never performed by the band.
Sunday service opened up with Reverend John Bell leading the musicians onstage through a provocative cover of Michael Stanley’s “Let’s Get the Show on the Road.” The last time that JB sung the wisdom of these lyrics was the Sunday of Red Rocks run in 2018. Another cover followed in the form of Pops Staples’ “Hope in a Hopeless World.” The preacher’s words cut through the audience’s remaining mental defenses and caused grown men to break down and cry. JoJo Hermann’s piano and Jimmy Herring’s guitar danced between the rhythms created by Dave Schools, Duane Trucks, and Sunny Ortiz.
The first original of the night came in the form of “This Part of Town” from 2001’s Don’t Tell the Band album. John Bell sagely declared, “Where there is love, there is hope.” Switching tones, Widespread kept the crowd-favorites rolling with Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, resurrecting the crowd’s wild energy.
When the standing ovation finally subsided, John Bell led the way through an original that was never played with the whole band. JB, alone on the stage, debuted it at a local talent show near his hometown last year. The song which was dubbed “Sacred Moments” then is now listed as “Life as a Tree” in respect to the last lyric, “This old guitar / never questioned / its life as a tree.”
Jimmy Herring plucked his way into the introduction of “Pilgrims” from ‘93’s Everyday. The wandering guitar licks accompanied JB’s words to create a serene Providence akin to a peaceful walk through the woods. A heart wrenching take on Cat Steven’s “Trouble” was followed by the quick-tempo of “Steven’s Cat”, Widespread’s tribute to the renowned British multi-instrumentalist.
To wrap up the unbelievable first half, JoJo’s vocals led the church choir through another rare classic “Nobody’s Loss” from Til’ the Medicine Takes before finishing the set off with Jerry Joseph’s “Climb to Safety.” JoJo Hermann remained a man possessed throughout the first set, but especially on these last two songs as the acoustic setting gave him more room to permeate the sound.
Upon return from set break, Widespread Panic blazed an entranceway into the second set that was brimming with hellfire with a badass acoustic tribute to Vic Chestnutt, “Protein Drink / Sewing Machine.” For only the second time ever, Panic delved into a Los Lobos cover “Somewhere in Time” with Dave Schools on lead vocals. This marked the first performance since the three winter shows in Aspen in the quiet touring schedule of 2012. Sunny Ortiz drove the rhythm into a holy “Surprise Valley” sandwich with a wholesome cover of Jorma Kaukonen’s “Genesis” enshrouded gloriously in scorching jams. JoJo once more donning his melodica introduced a hair-raising performance of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross”, which was last played at the Ryman Auditorium during the first night of the band’s 2016 New Year’s run.
Widespread Panic – “Surprise Valley”
Dave Schools welcomed Hard Working Americans bandmate Todd Snider to the stage to perform Guy Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train” for the first time ever. Snider hadn’t joined the band onstage since the summer of 1998. Todd Snider with his cowboy vocals gave the song an intimate campfire feel while the entire band chimed in to provide a choral harmonization that was bone-chilling, tear-jerking, and reminiscent of The Highwaymen’s version.
Speaking of The Highwaymen, Todd Snider remained on stage for another debut of Kris Kristofferson’s “Jesus was a Capricorn” before wrapping up the second set with the recently resurrected “The Waker.” Since its return on last year’s New Year’s Eve, the song has made its sanctified rounds at Red Rocks and now at the Ryman this year. Snider and JB’s combined vocals gave a new feel to this old Mikey Houser tune.
Widespread Panic ft. Todd Snider – “Jesus Was A Capricorn”
[Video: Tennessee Ed]
Widespread Panic ft. Todd Snider – “The Waker”
Returning to the stage for their encore, JB commented “We sure had fun in this party palace” as Widespread Panic sat around the front of the stage to play a Peanuts style of “C. Brown”. JoJo played a primitive piano reminiscent of Schroeder’s rig in the comic strip, while Duane Trucks meddled on a basic percussive kit (“C. Brown” ) After the musicians shuffled back to their customary positions on stage, Dave Schools led the musicians through a bass-heavy cut of Vic Chestnutt’s “Blight”, which featured a sweet call-and-response between Schools and JB. To finish off this year’s Ryman run, Widespread dove back into the Bloodkin’s repertoire for an appropriately positioned rendition of “End of the Show.”
Widespread Panic – “C. Brown”
Widespread finishes up their summer tour on August 31st and September 1st at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola, Florida. For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates, ticketing, and more information, head to Widespread Panic’s website.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN | 8/25/2019
Set One: Let’s Get The Show On The Road, Hope In A Hopeless World, This Part of Town, Lawyers Guns & Money, Life As A Tree, Pilgrims, Trouble, Steven’s Cat, Nobody’s Loss, Climb To Safety
Set Two: Protein Drink / Sewing Machine, Somewhere In Time, Surprise Valley > Genesis > Surprise Valley, Many Rivers To Cross, Desperados Waiting For A Train*, Jesus Was A Capricorn*, The Waker*
Encore: C. Brown, Blight, End of the Show (18 mins)
Notes * w/ Todd Snider on guitar and vocals
– ‘Let’s Get The Show On The Road’ LTP 6/24/18 Red Rocks (48 shows)
– ‘Somewhere In Time’ LTP 2/19/12 Aspen (394 shows); 2nd time played; Los Lobos tune
– ‘Many Rivers To Cross’ LTP 12/29/16 Nashville (97 shows)
– ‘Desperados Waiting For A Train’ First Time Played (Guy Clark original)
– ‘Jesus Was A Capricorn’ First Time Played (Kris Kristofferson original)
– ‘Life As A Tree’ believed to be a new original JB debuted during a talent show at his local country club August ’18 (watch video); Tonight is the first time played with Panic
– Entire show with Edie Jackson, ASL interpreter