The timeless rock and roll vets of Widespread Panic ignited the passionate followers during their finale in Durham, NC on Saturday. The venue of Durham Performing Arts Center was having trouble scanning tickets so many found ways to sneak their ticketless mates in with screenshots, deception, or a side door left partially ajar. The ones that make the trip—even without tickets—almost always find a way to get inside to enjoy the music that they cherish.

When the band walked onstage and Dave Schools’ resounding bass notes introduced “Imitation Leather Shoes”, the double capacity in attendance roared their approval with a bloodthirsty fervor. The raucous energy flowed from “Postcard” into Bloodkin’s “Makes Sense To Me” before the band mellowed the vibe for a moving performance of “I’m Not Alone”.

After JoJo Hermann manned the vocal helm throughout “Jaded Tourist”, Jimmy Herring injected rocket fuel to reanimate “The Last Straw”, the third track from WSP’s eponymous second album featured in the first set. The scorching jams expounded with a spacy, piano-laden improv transition that rounded into The Dillards’ classic, “There Is a Time”.

The Panics paused to allow the rowdy crowd to settle down before JoJo showcased “Visiting Day” with hearty help from the audience. (“I’ll sing a sad song if you get me high”). Closing out the first frame, John Bell, equipped with his guitar slide, introduced “Chilly Water” by his lonesome self. The lone gunslinger rode alone until the chorus when the band joined in to drink up “before riding on to another city tonight.”

Returning to DPAC’s stage for the last set of the weekend, WSP opened with Pop Staples’ “Hope in a Hopeless World” before pulling “Worry” from its own catalog. A finger-lickin’ good performance of “Contentment Blues” provided nutrition for the hungry souls and left a greasy boneyard of scraps to be picked over by an encircling ravenous flock of “Pigeons”.

Slowly building out of the silence, Bloodkin’s “Trashy” paid tribute to the prolific late songwriter Daniel Hutchens and endured as a community anthem (“We’re trashy but we’re true!”). The stream of music trickled into Medieval times for a fabled retelling of “Jack”.

Temporarily abandoning the mystical realm, WSP grounded itself with a hard-hitting cover of Murray McLaughlin’s “Honky Red” before encapsulating a refreshing “Tall Boy” inside a segmented cruise through “Driving Song”. Without stopping, WSP taxied down the runway and took flight into “Saint Ex” to close out the second set.

For the last time this weekend, Widespread Panic emerged from the shadows offstage to perform a coup de grace and finish off 2023’s three-night DPAC run with a two-song encore. JB approached the microphone centerstage and quipped “Thank you, Earthlings!” before performing the first of two songs, both listed on 1999’s ‘Til the Medicine Takes.

Unlike the tracklisting of the album, Panic reversed the order and dished out an ethereal “Blue Indian” and followed with Jerry Joseph and Glenn Esparza’s “Climb to Safety” to conclude the Durham run with a call of brotherhood. As always, holy hell.

Widespread Panic tries its luck in Las Vegas March 3rd–5th before setting sail for St. Augustine on March 24th–26th. Thankfully, the band reconsidered and rescheduled the St. Auggie shows outside of the swampy midsummer heat. For WSP’s full touring breakdown, click here.

Y’all get home safe and enjoy the Super Bowl, game, and snacks. Until next time, Sin City awaits. Full audio of Saturday’s show is available thanks to the Goodpeople at Panicstream.

Revisit Live For Live Music‘s coverage of the Widespread Panic Durham run: Thursday, Friday.

Setlist: Widespread Panic | Durham Performing Arts Center | Durham, NC | 2/11/23

Set One: Imitation Leather Shoes, Postcard > Makes Sense To Me (Bloodkin), I’m Not Alone, Jaded Tourist, The Last Straw > There Is A Time (The Dillards), Visiting Day, Chilly Water [1] (61 mins)

Set Two: Hope In A Hopeless World (Pop Staples), Worry, Contentment Blues, Pigeons, Trashy (Bloodkin) > Jack, Honky Red (Murray McLaughlin), Driving Song > Tall Boy > Driving Song > Saint Ex (84 mins)

Encore: Blue Indian, Climb To Safety (Jerry Joseph, Glenn Esparza) (12 mins)

[1] JB solo for first verse