The fun-loving flock of misfits who spent the weekend creating chaos all over the Las Vegas Strip was shepherded inside The Theatre at The Virgin Hotels on Sunday for the final Widespread Panic show of the weekend. On Saturday, the god-tier rockers crafted a setlist entirely of originals with at least one song pulled from every album in the band’s long and storied history. Sunday marked a return to the traditional format, scorching rock and roll riffs interweaving tributes and classics with powerful precision.
Appropriately, Panic opened the finale with the band’s interpretation of Michael Stanley’s “Let’s Get The Show On The Road”. The cover carried added significance as Sunday also marked the second anniversary of the Cleveland songsmith’s death. Panic’s revamped version injected the tune with high-voltage build-ups and stayed true to the despondent tone as a backward hat-clad John Bell mesmerized with his emotionally charged vocals.
To catapult the early vibes through the roof, WSP stacked three consecutive classic originals side by side, uninterrupted. First, JoJo Hermann cracked open a crispy, cold “Tall Boy” until Dave Schools steered into the bass-heavy barrage of “Bear’s Gone Fishin’”. Jimmy Herring then finished the explosive sequence by blasting off into “Junior”.
After the Junior Kimbrough-influenced jam subsided, the band took a second to catch its breath before covering a piano-laden roadhouse rendition of Joseph “Blind Willie” Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” for the first time since Marcus King joined WSP during Panic En La Playa Siete on January 29th, 2018.
Widespread Panic – “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” (Joseph “Blind Willie” Johnson) – 3/5/23
Always honoring the band’s peers and influences, Panic tipped its cap to fallen friend, Daniel Hutchens of Bloodkin, with a performance of his scathing blues composition “Who Do You Belong To?”. Returning to its own cookbook, JB—adding dollops of Herring sauce—cooked up a zesty “Thought Sausage”, scientifically simmering the pot-o-goods until triumphantly declaring “Come N’ Git It!”
After another quick pause, WSP introduced a fan-favorite cover of fIREHOSE’s “Sometimes” before closing the set with a high-octane “Love Tractor” joy ride. When the six-piece band began to disentangle themselves from their gear to walk offstage, the venue’s stagehands raced around the smoldering stage to extinguish the spreading tendrils of flames as JB simply said, “Be right back!”
Coming back from set break a-swinging, Panic launched into a combination of The Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature” which set up an extended “Good People”. The ode to the community featured an esoteric breakdown as JoJo led the way into his favorite dive, “Dark Bar”, singing the geographically-pertinent lyrics: “Had a dream in Vegas, I was a dog without a tail…”
WSP’s tour manager, Steve Lopez, added percussion for two covers, Jerry Joseph’s “Chainsaw City” (“No bad vibes!”) and War’s “Slippin’ into Darkness” while stepping off in-between to give JoJo space to excavate a massive “Big Wooly Mammoth”. Lopez walked offstage as Jimmy Herring tuned to the frequency of an electrifying “Radio Child” without stopping.
As the second and last set of the weekend wound down, Widespread lined up its last original composition, filling an overflowing double shot of “Machine > Barstools and Dreamers”. Covers fell like dice on a craps table as Panic blazed into Talking Heads’ “City of Dreams”—fittingly echoing lyrics about a “highway of fire” only 40 miles from Nevada’s picturesque Valley of Fire—before Skip James’ euphoric “I’m So Glad” closed the second set.
Riding the wave with hot hands and a weekend-long winning spree, Widespread Panic continued a streak of covers during the encore, with the band pulling out pocket aces from its sleeves. For starters, a ghoulish JB, desperate for salvation, haunted Vic Chesnutt’s “Aunt Avis”. The Panics then flipped over their second ace, The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to finish off WSP Las Vegas run.
After a jackpot of a weekend, the band departs Sin City and sets its sights on the city of St. Augustine. The Florida fans breathed a sigh of relief when WSP announced shows at The St. Augustine Amphitheater at the end of March rather than the doggish swampy heat of mid-summer. For a full touring breakdown, click here.
Until next time folks, safe travels and stay well. I’ll leave y’all with relevant words of wisdom from the late Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold em / Know when to fold em / know when to walk away / know when to run / you never count your money / when you’re sitting at the table / there’ll be time enough for counting / when the deal is done.”
Revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of the 2023 Widespread Panic Las Vegas run: Friday, Saturday.
Widespread Panic – The Theatre At The Virgin Hotels – Las Vegas, NV – 3/5/23 – Full Audio
Setlist: Widespread Panic | The Theatre At The Virgin Hotels | Las Vegas, NV | 3/5/23
Set One: Let’s Get The Show On The Road (Michael Stanley), Tall Boy > Bear’s Gone Fishin’ > Junior, Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Joseph “Blind Willie” Johnson), Who Do You Belong To? (Bloodkin), Thought Sausage, Sometimes (fIREHOSE) > Love Tractor (60 mins)
Set 2 No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature (The Guess Who), Good People > Dark Bar > Good People, Chainsaw City (Jerry Joseph)*, Big Wooly Mammoth > Slippin’ Into Darkness (War)* > Radio Child, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, City of Dreams (Talking Heads), I’m So Glad (Skip James) (86 mins)
Encore Aunt Avis (Vic Chesnutt), You Can’t Always Get What You Want (The Rolling Stones) (13 mins)
Notes * w/ Steve Lopez on percussion
– LTP ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ 1/29/18 Playa (164 shows)