Widespread Panic, the sultans of swamp rock, finally returned to the illustrious Beacon Theatre on New York’s Upper West Side on Thursday night to begin a five night, five show residency. The run was postponed twice due to COVID-19 resurgences; originally slated for mid-September 2021, the band’s second-ever fiver at the Beacon was later moved to January 2022, then again to its current July 2022 dates.

The Big Apple presented the devoted community with a mélange of opportunities to occupy their time. The more financially stable crowd enjoyed the cornucopia of steakhouses and culturally diverse eateries, while others were more concerned with staying out of the heat, getting inside the venue, and having a bed to sleep in that night.

After a two reschedules and a year of waiting, Panic walked onstage to boisterous applause before ripping into “Heroes” to kick off a first set comprised entirely of originals (“Old days come and go too soon / Old friends, heroes, lifetimes / Don’t let a single memory fade away”). Jimmy Herring carved notches into “Rebirtha” until JoJo Hermann stepped up to the plate to knock a homer out of the park with his clavinet bursts.

Before the sound faded away, Dave Schools and the rhythm pocket steered off Broadway and into “Papa Johnny Road”. From there, John Bell paid tribute to the fans with a nourishing “Good People”. JoJo waited patiently for the song’s breakdown to shepherd the crowd into an obscure “Dark Bar” until Jimmy Herring resurrected them with his high-voltage riffs.

Thundering bass introduced a robust “Papa’s Home”, dialing in the band’s synergy and jolting the audience to shuffle to Sunny Ortiz’s beat. Maintaining momentum, Duane Trucks hit the turnpike, took three jughandles, and crossed George Washington Bridge to get out of New Jersey and back on track for a race against dawn in “Shut Up and Drive”. Winding down the first frame, a spectral “Blue Indian” made an unexpected appearance before “Wondering” closed out the set of originals.


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After a short set break, Widespread Panic came back swinging in round two as “Cease Fire” led the percussive charge into the unknown. After a smooth segue, Bloodkin’s “Henry Parsons Died” marched its funeral procession into the jaunty rhythm of Jerry Joseph’s “Time Zones”. The latter song featured JoJo’s first piano solo of the evening as well as the appropriate lyrics, “We’ll all be back tomorrow / just like today,” which resonated with a cheer on the first of this five-night Beacon residency.

Allowing Jimmy Herring to run unbridled, the instrumental “Happy” began a string of consecutive songs that ran uninterrupted until nearly the end of the set. Eventually, the guitarist returned to the earthly realms as JB echoed an esoteric “Jamais Vu” (“Sunburned at Christmas / Snowing at the edge of July”).

The jams broke down in lieu of eerie improvisation bleeding into War’s “Four Cornered Room.” The War cover gave way to a Jimi Hendrix “Machine Gun” jam, followed by “Impossible”. This segment provided the meat and potatoes of the second set—and, to many, the highlight of night one as a whole. To bookend the stream of music, the uncertain rumination of “Worry” threatened to entrap anybody lingering in the desolate swampland where Panic jams thrive.

For only the fifth time ever and first time since the acoustic show at the Ryman Auditorium, Widespread Panic performed The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” before dropping into “Ain’t Life Grand” for an explosive ending to the second set.

Returning to stage for the encore, Widespread Panic opened the encore with an emotionally charged rendition of “Down” in honor of late bandmate and founding drummer Todd Nance. To close out the first show of the residency, Panic celebrated the life and songs of Bloodkin’s Daniel Hutchens with “Makes Sense to Me.”

Widespread Panic – “Down” – 7/21/22

[Video: gr8fuljon]

With four more nights of scorching swamp rock ahead, the crowd dispersed into the New York Streets in search of 99-cent pizza, cold beer, and late-night munchies. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Those who survived 2020’s five-night pancake stack at the Beacon—or any iteration of Playa—can understand the concept. It was only Thursday…

Now that it’s weekend, however all bets are off. Drink buckets of water, eat and sleep well, stay out of the sun, and be ready, because this band is showing no signs of slowing down. As long as they are out there playing, I’m going to be partying. See you tonight.

Widespread Panic returns to the Beacon for night two on Friday. For a full list of upcoming concert dates, head here.

Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 7/21/22

Set One: Heroes, Rebirtha > Papa Johnny Road, Good People > Dark Bar > Good People, Papa’s Home, Shut Up And Drive, Blue Indian, Wondering (63 mins)

Set Two: Cease Fire > Henry Parsons Died, Time Zones, Happy > Jamais Vu > Four Cornered Room > Machine Gun > Impossible > Worry, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away > Ain’t Life Grand (84 mins)

Encore: Down, Makes Sense To Me (11 mins)

Notes – ‘Happy’ LTP 6/25/21 Red Rocks (47 shows)
– ‘Machine Gun’ LTP 6/26/21 Red Rocks (46 shows)
– ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ LTP 8/23/19 Nashville (72 shows)
– Night one of five of Beacon Theatre residency


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