Any time Widespread Panic performs in the south, the setlist offers a cornucopia of heaters with exceptional rarities sprinkled into the mix. Brandon Amphitheater in Brandon, Mississippi hosted the latest example of that phenomenon on Saturday as approximately 8,000 of the band’s acolytes piled into the venue for a memorable show featuring a Neil Young cover the band hadn’t played on electric instruments in nearly a decade.
After an introductory jam christened the first night with fiery improvisation, Van Morrison’s “Send Your Mind” opened the Memorial Day Weekend run. The classics cascaded in rapid succession as bassist Dave Schools took us by the hand for a stroll through “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” before dusting off an appropriate “Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi)” for the third time in nine years.
An uplifting “Pleas” settled into “Sundown Betty” before the band fired up the ol’ jalopy to accelerate down the deserted highway of Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West”. Another sweeping transition dropped into a scorching “Give” before the band rounded out the first frame with Willie Dixon’s “Tail Dragger” as guitarist Jimmy Herring branded the tune with his signature stamp. Dixon was born an hour away from Brandon Amphitheater in Vicksburg, MI, and the band channeled his gritty spirit with its characteristic brand of blues and rock and roll.
Without losing momentum after set break, Widespread Panic charged into “Little Kin”. JoJo Hermann took the helm next for piano-laden ode the South, “Cotton was King”. After landing a barrage of blows on the Brandon crowd with “Papa Johnny Road”, the beloved combination of “Disco” and “Diner” brought the audience members back to their senses.
Still unsatisfied, JoJo reached out his hand during “1×1” and retold the tragic story of the Clear Creek Bridge Disaster in nearby Edwards, Mississippi—and the heroics of the mythological Sugarman. After a short pause, Panic taxied down the runway and took off into the skies with “Airplane” before landing softly on the shoreline of Lake Morena during “Hatfield”. John Bell was a man possessed, improvising a colorful and rambunctious “rap” into the breakdown. Consecutive covers flowed unbroken as Schools led the troupe into Steve Ferguson’s “Flat Foot Flewzy” before pivoting the rhythm for a rowdy rendition of Jerry Joseph’s “North” to close out the second set.
As is usually the case with these road-hardened veterans, they saved the best surprises for the end. To open the encore the band’s first of two nights in Mississippi, Widespread Panic dusted off Neil Young’s “Are You Ready for the Country?”, marking the cover’s first appearance since 2019’s Ryman Auditorium acoustic run, and the first with electric instruments since the fall of 2013.
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Putting the cherry on Brandon, Mississippi’s euphoric first night, Widespread Panic closed out the Mississippi evening with Skip James’s “I’m So Glad”, a walk-off grand slam for the Home Team. Tonight, the Panics and their devoted fans return to The Brandon Amphitheater for one more evening of the shenanigans, revelry, and whiskey-fueled jams that we’ve come to know and love. Stay well, Good People!
For a full list of upcoming Widespread Panic tour dates, head here.
Setlist [via PanicStream]: Widespread Panic | The Brandon Amphitheater | Brandon, MS | 5/27/23
Set One: Jam > Send Your Mind, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi) > Pleas > Sundown Betty, Goin’ Out West > Give, Tail Dragger (60 mins)
Set 2 Little Kin, Cotton Was King, Papa Johnny Road, Disco > Diner > 1×1, Airplane > Hatfield > Flat Foot Flewzy > North (91 mins)
Encore : Are You Ready For The Country?, I’m So Glad (16 mins)
Notes – LTP ‘Are You Ready For The Country?’ 8/23/19 Ryman (118 shows); LTP electric 11/12/13 Baltimore