“WIDESPREAD PANIC” declared the classic marquee on the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA, as the main signage for the concert venue introduced Athens’ pioneers of jam rock to the entering masses on this unseasonably warm-weathered Sunday night. The behemoths of swamp rock and roll returned to the Fabulous Fox Theatre to celebrate the end of 2019—in addition to the legendary venue’s 90th year in business—as the opening night of Widespread Panic’s New Year’s Eve run began to top off another incredible year of music.
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Picking up right where they left off, Widespread Panic continued their already-infamous Halloween shtick with a quick tease of Andy Kaufman’s “I Trusted You” before diving into their tribute to the devoted fanbase with “Goodpeople” off 2006’s Earth to America. JoJo Hermann included a rare “Dark Bar” segment which has now emerged for the fourth time this year after spending seven years on the shelf. After finishing the second half of “Goodpeople”, farmer John Bell—or John Farmer Bell—held on for his life on a wild ride of “Love Tractor” that was accelerated out into the cosmos thanks to Jimmy Herring’s rocket fuel.
The hellbound tractor ride subsided and the crowd scrambled to collect their scattered of skull fragments as Panic appropriately lined up a mellow “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” off 1993’s Everyday. The deep-rooted instrumental “A of D” (from the early “Mom’s Kitchen” jam session) progressively intensified until its momentum could not be contained and had to be stopped.
Panic returned to Everyday with a sweet take on the classic “Wondering”, before roasting chestnuts as well as faces with a scorchin’ “Bear’s Gone Fishin’” on this holiday celebratory jubilee. Dave Schools introduced the cut from 1999’s Til the Medicine Takes with early bass bombs being substituted for Herring’s machine gun guitar licks to further annihilate this tune. The sextet kept it saucy with a low-down, dirty, and mean take on “Tall Boy” that featured JoJo and JB sharing vocals and Jimmy Herring taking no prisoners and granting no mercy to the unprepared. As the foamy cut from 1996’s Bombs & Butterflies faded out, Jerry Joseph’s “North” emerged to conclude the first set with its only cover. John Bell tantalized the quick-lipped lyrics that described a “return to Mexico”—appropriate as many excited fans are counting down the days until Panic en la Playa Nueve.
Getting straight to business early in the second set, Widespread divulged in hefty, meandering renditions of “All Time Low” and “Rebirtha” before icing this delightful trio of originals with “You Should Be Glad”, “Bombs and Butterflies”, and “Earth to America”, respectively. JoJo dazzled through the segue leading into “YSBG” before passing the baton to Schools to pulverize the pulse of the song. The omnipresent Jimmy Herring maneuvered his deft fingers up and down the fretboard with such blazing speed that most couldn’t even perceive movement. As the intensity progressed into realms unforeseen, Duane Trucks masterfully orchestrated a crashing conclusion to allow JoJo to take the helm for a lyrical rundown of “Jaded Tourist”. The tune was co-written with Bill Elder’s hand, and first appeared on 2010’s Dirty Side Down.
Paying respect to their fellow Georgia rockers, Widespread Panic then covered Bloodkin’s “Henry Parson’s Died”. This otherworldly, spiritual eulogy evoked Hell’s fire and brimstone as wrathful demons were summoned to chant and dance amongst the audience. Remaining outside the band’s catalog of originals, Widespread jumped into a euphoric version of The Band‘s “Ophelia”.
For only the 13th time ever, Panic performed “Sundown Betty”, which first debuted in Mexico at 2018’s Panic en la Playa Siete. To follow, a bouncing bass-heavy beat introduced a “Ribs N Whiskey” that featured a saucy JB in cahoots with Herring and Schools as the fellas worked together to slather the finger-lickin’ goodness all over the jam. JoJo kept building momentum and executed a flawless “Bust It Big” in what would be the last original of the evening.
To end the first night with a string of covers, Widespread dug deep into Bill Withers‘ emotionally charged “Use Me”. JB was a man possessed with the voice of a grizzly bear and soul of a snake while describing how good it feels to be used to his fictional brother. Next, the Panics paid tribute to their musical idol, Neil Young, with a ripping cover of Buffalo Springfield‘s “Mr. Soul” to continue the slew of covers and end the second set of the first night.
As a coup de grâce, Panic delivered a double-cover encore featuring a swooning take on Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Geraldine and the Honeybee” preceding Tom Petty’s punch-yer-gut-and-steal-your-girl “Honey Bee”. “Geraldine” recently resurfaced at this year’s acoustic run in Nashville after a seven-and-a-half-year hiatus, and “Honey Bee” was hammered home for only the tenth time ever.
Watch the band’s encore performance of “Geraldine and the Honeybee” from Sunday’s show below.
Widespread Panic – “Geraldine and the Honeybee” – 12/29/2019
Widespread Panic returns to stage at the Fox Theatre on Monday for the penultimate show of 2019. As always, Goodpeople, good luck and be safe. In the words of Ol’ Neil, “You’re strange, but don’t change,” even as the years do.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Fox Theatre | Atlanta, GA | 12/29/2019
Set One: Goodpeople > Dark Bar > Goodpeople, Love Tractor, Pickin’ Up the PIeces, A of D, Wondering, Bear’s Gone Fishin’, Tall Boy, North (Jerry Joseph cover)
Set Two: All Time Low, Rebirtha, You Should Be Glad, Jaded Tourist, Henry Parsons Died (BloodKin cover), Ophelia (the Band cover), Sundown Betty, Ribs and Whiskey, Bust It Big, Use Me (Bill Withers cover), Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield cover)
Encore: Geraldine and the Honeybee (Willis Alan Ramsey cover), Honey Bee (Tom Petty)
Notes: “I Trusted You” tease before “Goodpeople”