In like a lion; out like a lamb. True to their untamed nature, Widespread Panic welcomed the advent of March with the fierceness of a lion pride for the latest performance in the band’s ongoing takeover of New York City’s Beacon Theatre on Sunday. The strong and steady supporters (“We train for this!”) rallied to hail the fourth show as an uncontested masterpiece. The Beacon Theatre’s doors swung open last night for the penultimate Sunday show, one that was truly for the record books.
After John Bell asked, “How’s everybody tonight?,” Panic got down and dirty, opening with a recently-resurrected “From the Cradle” for only the third time in four years. After going A.W.O.L. in February of 2016, the tune resurfaced during 2019’s October run at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. Keeping it original, Jimmy Herring blazed the way into “One Armed Steve”, inspired by JoJo Hermann‘s first night in the band–“Big City doctors fix me up and make me right!”
Giving early indications that this show was going to be historical, Panic cut through the silence with an emotionally wrought cover of Michael Stanley’s “Let’s Get This Show on the Road”. A glorious “Ribs and Whiskey” preceded a raunchy rendition of Calvin Carter & Bobby Rush’s “Bowlegged Woman”. Both tunes presented an opportunity for John Bell to get extra spicy, but it was the “Bowlegged Woman” that featured an ad-libbed, “I’m Gonna Take You To My Room” rap in which JB doggishly named cool things in his bedroom in an attempt to persuade a potential suitor to stay the night–“I got records. Blacklight posters. I got a fish tank!… Off the Wall, Michael Jackson.”
Panic kept the pedal to the floor with a hard-hitting cover of Murray McLauchlan’s “Honky Red” which shorted The Big Apple’s electric grid with the song’s intense power surges. As the song concluded, the Manhattan theater had to switch to the backup generators in the venue’s cellar and Panic slowed it down for a poignant performance of Cat Stevens’ “Trouble” to give the electrical system a chance to recalibrate.
Panic then covered “Hope in a Hopeless World” to round out the first glorious set, which presented the opening lyrics, “Baby born in New York City” and later “Saturday’s child don’t wanna go to Sunday school.” The song was made famous by Roebuck “Pops” Staples though written by Bob Theile Jr. and Phil Roy. To close out the frame, Panic returned to their own repertoire for a raucous romp through the Colorado Rockies with “Postcard.”
The outstanding scorcher of a second set began with humble beginnings. Panic started back up by covering Vic Chesnutt’s “Let’s Get Down to Business” for the first of three songs off brute.’s 1995 album–Nine High a Pallet–to appear in the second set. A triple onslaught of originals followed with a fiery “Little Kin” preceding the dynamic instrumental “Disco”. Both served as late-night appetizers for the fan-favorite “Diner”. The band whipped up a hearty portion of jams which was both wholesome and spiritually nourishing.
At the brink of satiation, JB dug deep into his litany of recipes to entice a euphoric rap during the breakdown in adding, “Morning, I know it’s cold outside/All the church people won’t be here for hours/You can probably warm your bones right there in that corner/Slid a couple quarters, Ms. Lee/Slip ‘em in the jukebox/ ‘What’s a good Sunday song?’/F13, Ian Dury!/‘Sex and drugs and rock and roll, is all my brain and body need!’”
Revisit the band’s performance of “Diner” below.
Widespread Panic – “Diner” – 3/1/20
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Almost in response to “Diner”, Panic then performed a double cover of The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature”. Past the halfway point of the second set, Panic played a stream of rockin’ originals to blow the doors of the venue and the brains of the attending audience. The rowdy classic, “Papa’s Home”, was broken down by Duane Trucks and Sonny Ortiz for a “Drums” section before rebuilding itself into a desperate plea to “Cease Fire”. To close out the second frame, Panic returned to Chesnutt and brute.’s Nine High a Pallet tracklist for a double dose of “Protein Drink” into “Sewing Machine”. Due to the incredible amount of energy used to power the band’s equipment caused the gilded light fixtures to flicker as the city’s electrical grid was tested, once more.
Watch The Guess Who double cover from Sunday’s show below.
Widespread Panic – “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature” – 3/1/20
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Widespread Panic shuffled offstage to give the audience and equipment time to cool down before returning for a legendary bust-out of Lou Reed’s “Vicious”. It’s been 1,003 shows since this tune has appeared on a Panic setlist, with the last time being during Halloween celebration at the nearby Madison Square Garden in 2013.
To wrap up the fourth glorious pancake, John Bell grabbed his “tiny guitar”–a.k.a. a mandolin for the normies not familiar with Panicstream.com–to share a group reflection with the rhetorical question, “Ain’t Life Grand?”
Widespread Panic – “Vicious” – 3/1/20
This incredible band concludes their five-night Beacon Theatre residency tonight (3/2) to complete the full stack of shows commemorating Leap Year and beyond. An exuberant celebration will take place once more at the Upper West Side venue for what will surely be a can’t-miss grand finale. Tickets for Monday’s show are available here.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | The Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 3/1/20
Set One: From the Cradle, One Arm Steve, Let’s Get the Show on the Road (Michael Stanley Band cover), Ribs and Whiskey, Bowlegged Woman (Bobby Rush cover), Honky Red (Murray McLauchlan cover), Trouble (Cat Stevens cover), Hope in a Hopeless World (Pops Staples cover), Postcard
Set Two: Let’s Get Down to Business, Little Kin, Disco, Diner > No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature (The Guess Who cover), Papa’s Home > Drums > Cease Fire, Protein Drink > Sewing Machine
Encore: Vicious (Lou Reed cover), Ain’t Life Grand
“Vicious”, First Time Played since 10/31/03