The best damn band in the land, Widespread Panic, rallied their ragged, vagrant community of zealots for the second show of the band’s Beacon Theatre residency on Friday. The prestigious theater provided sanctuary from the ungodly July heat as the rows were packed in with wild-eyed fans drooling with feverish anticipation. WSP crafted a setlist of heaters, welding classic originals, blues covers, and tributes to the band’s influences—Bloodkin, Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits, and Neil Young, to name a few.

The swampy sextet walked out of the shadows to their respective position onstage to an eruption of hoots and hollers as Dave Schools—wearing a Taylor Swift T-shirt—barreled into a thumping “From the Cradle” opener. The music flowed uninterrupted with “Pleas” fading into JoJo Hermann’s “One Arm Steve”. A subequent bass-heavy segue bounced into Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down”, which included a tantalizing Lightning Hopkins-inspired “Gimme Back My Wig” rap from a saucy John Bell.

After catching their breath for the first time this set, the troupe followed John Bell’s lead into emotional takes of Bloodkin’s “Can’t Get High” and “I’m Not Alone” (“Feelin’ a little bit easier now / knowing you’re all here!”). To follow, WSP whipped their horses down the dusty trails of The Dillards’ “There Is a Time” for only the seventh time ever. Born on downtown Manhattan’s Mulberry Street, the hometown hero JoJo Hermann carved out a pristine piano section into the scorching folk ditty.

Winding down the frame, Jimmy Herring kicked open the back door to “Holden Oversoul” to welcome a cool breeze, the ghost of a clown, and blistering guitar riffs before Dave Schools crushed a cover of Vic Chesnutt’s “Sleeping Man” to end the first set with an infernal fury.

Picking up right where they left off, Panic blazed through a soul-crushing “Little Kin” until galloping an “Action Man” out the gates and down the home stretch. Next, WSP reined in the tempo for a mellow but progressively building “Better Off”.

Locking into a jaw-dropping sequence, JB whomped up biscuits for all during a medieval joust of “Jack” before a soaring jam allowed Jimmy Herring to pay tribute to the Allman Brothers Band with a “Blue Sky” tease. The Beacon Theatre has long since been a stronghold for the ABB as they made yearly returns for a residency every March. As fans of music and extended residencies, we pray that WSP makes the Beacon Theatre an annual event.

Keeping the pedal to the floor, Schools bounced out of the feudal age and into a rolling “Love Tractor” as the band’s synergy neared perfection, humming along like a fine-tuned machine. Duane Trucks dropped into a gritty rendition of Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West” with JB’s vocals cutting like a rusty razor blade.

Schools took the helm and led the vanguard into his bass opus “Stop Go”. To make the performance even more memorable, JB added a Leonard Cohen-inspired “That Don’t Make It Junk” rap that made even the stone-faced bassist trade his longstanding patina of insouciance for a devilish grin.

At this point, the audience was foaming at the mouth as a cover of Neil Young’s “Walk On” included a tease of Joe Scott and Don Robey’s classic “Turn on Your Love Light”, which Ron “Pigpen” McKernan famously included as a staple in the Grateful Dead’s performances. Ending the second set in the same vein of badass heaviness that carried through the evening, WSP executed a monster “Imitation Leather Shoes” closer.

Returning for an encore, Widespread Panic dished out consecutive originals as an emotional “Gimme” cut the crowd to tatters before “Give” was performed for the first time of the year. As the second song of the encore ended, the band remained in discussion onstage and it became clear that they weren’t done yet. To put a cherry on the mouthwatering second night of the Beacon residency, WSP covered The Guess Who’s combination of “No Sugar Tonight” / “New Mother Nature.”

The insatiable audience—is it ever really enough when you got the right stuff?—stayed in their seats and hollered incompressible shouts in a cacophonic uproar. Luckily, there are still three more nights of music ahead for the lucky ones that cleared their schedules for this glorious event. See ya’ll on the floor for another round in a few hours. Let’s roll, Mr. Saturday Night Special!

Setlist: Widespread Panic | The Beacon Theatre | 7/22/22

Set 1: From The Cradle > Pleas > One Arm Steve > Stop Breakin’ Down Blues, Can’t Get High, I’m Not Alone, There Is A Time, Holden Oversoul, Sleeping Man (58 mins)

Set 2: Little Kin > Action Man, Better Off, Jack > Love Tractor > Jam > Goin’ Out West > Stop Go, Walk On, Imitation Leather Shoes (76 mins)

Encore: Gimme, Give, No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature (18 mins)

– “Blue Sky” tease by Jimmy during “Jack”
– “That Don’t Make It Junk” rap during “Stop Go”
– “Turn On Your Love Light” jam during “Walk On”
– “Give” LTP 6/25/21 Red Rocks (49 shows)