Widespread Panic returned to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN on Saturday for the second show as part of a three-night weekend run at the glorious church-like venue. An all-acoustic act allowed the band to offer a barebones approach to their beloved repertoire. Just as they’d done the night prior on Friday, the Panic boys had several tricks up their sleeves including a special guest and more bust-outs.
Kicking off the second night, Widespread Panic opened the show with “I’m Not Alone”, a cut from their second self-titled album which hadn’t been in the opening slot of the setlist since 7/22/97 in Pompano Beach, FL. A heartfelt John Bell voiced the unanimous feeling that everyone in attendance was thinking with the honest admittance over the mic, “I’m feeling a little bit easier now, knowing that you’re all here.”
For a second night, the band leafed through Daniel Hutchen’s catalog of songs for another first set Bloodkin cover of“Makes Sense to Me”. The moral undertones were coupled with JoJo Hermann’s jazzy finger dancing, and Sonny Ortiz’s percussive peppering to springboard JB’s spiritual exorcism. The consolidated instrumental “Happy” was jammed out before “Geraldine and the Honeybee” brought her sweet nectar for the first time since Aspen in the winter 2012–a gap of 396 shows. This marked the second consecutive night in which Widespread covered the mysterious Texan, Willis Alan Ramsay. The JoJo and JB tandem was exceptional on this performance, making it the sweet stuff that dreams are made of for Panic fans.
“Gradle” off Bombs & Butterflies featured a call-and-response between Jimmy Herring and JoJo as “the angels (and JB) whispered, ‘Pay no mind’.” Dave Schools, Duane Trucks, and Sonny led the charge through another crowd-favorite original, “Wondering”, before winding into the slow roll of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven”. written by the Talking Heads. JB introduced the tune with the quip, “This song has a 50-50 chance of being the song that I mean to play. Here goes 50.” Even though WSP covered the Talking Heads original as an encore during their recent St. Augustine run, the acoustic version in Nashville had a more haunting sound as JB’s vocals were echoed by JoJo.
Widespread Panic then welcomed rising bluegrass star Billy Strings to help perform The Dillards’ “There Is a Time”, making it just the third time in the band’s history they’ve covered the song, with the last time being at Red Rocks earlier this year. JB and Billy had a twangy vocal harmonization that flourished in the accompaniment of the dazzling guitar picking. JoJo’s piano and Strings vocals led the rest of WSP through an intoxicating rendition of “Blackout Blues” to close the set. The guitar picking of Billy Strings infused a bluegrass sound into a typically bawdy, barroom song, and took the jam further and further down the rabbit hole.
Watch the band’s set-ending performances of “Heaven”, “There Is a Time”, and “Blackout Blues” with Strings on the latter two below.
Widespread Panic – “Heaven”, “There Is a Time”, “Blackout Blues” – 8/24/2019
To begin the second set, John Bell walked onstage alone with a banjo in his hand to play an extremely uncommon “Ribs and Whiskey” yuletide version with the lyrics switched to a Christmas theme of “Milk and Cookies”. Tacking on the melody of “Silent Night” to end the tune just about blew the doors off the building as well as the minds of those in attendance. JB &Friends took a similar slant on this song during a Tunes for Tots benefit, years ago.
Sonny and JoJo returned to the stage to accompany JB on another stripped down take on “Imitation Leather Shoes” from the under-appreciated album Don’t Tell the Band. JoJo’s piano and Sonny’s wooden percussion box were the only instruments as JB growled the lyrical interpretation of Franz Kafka’s short story on “Metamorphisis”.
The rest of the band members sauntered on stage to help unearth the prehistoric jam, “Big Wooly Mammoth”, introduced by Duane Trucks’ snare drum. JoJo took the lead vocals while JB and Schools added some of their saucy and deep flavors into this evolutionary crockpot. From “Livin’ in a Fortnite world”, the musicians slowed down the tempo for a haunting performance of “Blue Indian” from Til’ the Medicine Takes.
Billy Strings returned to the stage to help JoJo dive into a piano-laden cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)” with Bell supporting vocally. The young guitar picker stayed on stage for a high-flying performance of “Airplane” which also featured interwoven melodies between Herring and Strings. After an elevated breakdown, the seven-piece landed smoothly into the jazzy rhythms of J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High”. This was the longest jam of the night and an absolute masterpiece that ended the 41 total minutes stage time from Strings alongside Panic.
Watch the performances of “Old Chunk of Coal” and “Airplane” featuring the second set sit-in from Strings below.
Widespread Panic feat. Billy Strings – “Old Chunk of Coal” – 8/24/2019
Widespread Panic feat. Billy Strings – “Airplane” – 8/24/2019
Bell thanked Strings one more time before voicing his thoughts with a sly tongue-in-cheek, “I predict he’s gonna be real good one day.” Duane and Sonny’s percussion rolled out “Vacation” for a pristine run through this classic Mikey tune. Widespread finished the set with a merciful coup-de-grace, “Ain’t Life Grand”.
Panic returned to execute another heart-wrenching original, “When You Coming Home”, marking the second consecutive night where they picked a track from 2010’s Dirty Side Down for the encore. The performance also marked the first time Panic had played “When You Coming Home” in front of an audience since their show at the Ryman Auditorium five years ago. Bell then led the band through a razor-sharp performance of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, just the fifth time played since its initial debut at Panic’s Broomfield Halloween shows in 2014.
Widespread Panic is back for one more night as part of their weekend run at The Ryman on Sunday. Head here for ticket info for all of the band’s upcoming performances.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Ryman Auditorium | Nashville, TN | 8/24/2019
Set One: I’m Not Alone, Makes Sense to Me, Happy, Geraldine and the Honeybee (Willis Alan Ramsey cover), Gradle, Wondering, Heaven (Talking Heads cover), There Is a Time* (The Dillards cover), Blackout Blues*
Set Two: Ribs and Whiskey^, Imitation Leather Shoes#, Big Wooly Mammoth, Blue Indian, Old Chunk of Coal * (Billy Joe Shaver cover), Airplane*, Ride Me High* (J.J. Cale cover), Vacation, Ain’t Life Grand
Encore: When You Coming Home, Heart of Gold (Neil Young cover)
* w/ Billy Strings
^ JB solo
# JB, Sunny, and JoJo only
“Geraldine and the Honeybee” Last Time Played 2/17/2012 in Aspen, CO (396 shows)
“When You Coming Home” Last Time Played 4/1/2014 at TRI Studios (297 shows)