After a bizarre Halloween night performance full of guests and gags on Thursday, Widespread Panic returned to what they do best for a blazing hot second night of their NOLAween weekend run at Uno Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on Friday. The confusion from the first night did not linger as the band approached their appropriate positions on stage with a strange determination on All Saints Day.
Marching onstage, Widespread Panic wasted no time in building a massive first set sandwich after John Bell introduced the night ahead with, “We’ll just continue on with our everyday hijinks”. The band then proceeded to get right into the thick of a raunchy rendition of Calvin Carter & Bobby Rush’s “Bowlegged Woman.” Panic’s adaptation, which typically stands akin to the version composed by Hot Tuna, featured a quick-lipped JB whispering pillow talk through the melodies. Right as the jam was getting juicy, Jimmy Herring’s last guitar note hung suspended in the air as the bottom dropped out and Dave Schools led the courageous charge into “Chilly Water.” Before finishing the song, as the percussionists were hammering away, Schools once again shifted gears into the bouncing rhythm of “Little Lily” off 2001’s Don’t Tell the Band. The fan-favorite possessed harmonization between Schools and JB to go with a maelstrom solo from Herring. The lyrics seemed appropriate to Thursday’s “Man on the Moon” theme as JB shadowed the traditional line, “It’s only real if you believe” with “Don’t believe everything you see” just one time.
JoJo Hermann led the musicians through a piano-laden performance of “Visiting Day” which posed the question, “Why can’t we just take a look around us / and only see the things that make you smile?” Sticking within their own catalog, Schools took the audience by the hand and led them down a pastoral stroll through “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” after a hearty tease of “I Trusted You” from the night prior. A heavy, extended cut of “You Got Yours” off 1996’s Bombs & Butterflies was followed by the introduction of
“Dirty Business” “Christmas Katie”. Due to an equipment malfunction, JB sang without a guitar on the 1999 tune from Til’ the Medicine Takes. His body-language, crooning while desperately hold on to the microphone like a drowning man and a lifeboat, gave the song an emotional distraught edge until it was kicked into high gear by Herring.
Before finishing the massive first set sandwich, Widespread Panic dashed off “Entering a Blackhole Backwards”, which featured a cosmic interplay between JoJo, Herring, and Schools’ thundering bass. The jam hasn’t been heard since April 2016 at a show at the North Charleston Coliseum. Duane Trucks and Sunny Ortiz rolled the percussion back into “Chilly Water” with JoJo’s sizzling organ play and Herring’s lightning guitar licks manipulating the electric grid and caused power failures as far as West Texas. Closing out the first set, the Panic guys segued back into the pulsing bassline of “Bowlegged” for a raucous conclusion to this belly-buster, mind-fucker of a sandwich.
Watch the band’s first set “Entering a Black Hole Backwards”, “Chilly Water”, “Bowlegged Woman” segue from Friday below.
Widespread Panic – “Entering a Black Hole Backwards” > “Chilly Water” > “Bowlegged Woman” – 11/1/19
Appropriately, the second set began with a classic “Disco” reviving the energy at this halfway point in the three-night run. As the beloved instrumental wound down, the steadily rolling rhythm of “Diner” rounded the corner. After Ms. Lee and Mr. Herring both served “bowls of lightning,” JB broke down the song for a smooth ad-libbed rap which included whispers of “Cups of tea… Earl grey” as well as a legendary “Highway to Heaven” rap. Displaying his quick wit and improvisational skills, JB described “the first time that I saw you… you were sleeping”, declared, “Smile for the whole world to see!”, as well as flung dozens of other off-the-cuff brilliant one-liners. JoJo sewed together the piano at the end of “Diner” into a Professor Longhair-inspired segue that was interwoven masterfully into a rowdy “Blackout Blues”. Following with another old-school classic, WSP performed “The Last Straw” off their self-titled second album from 1991. The tune breaks down into a dreamlike state before accelerating into light speed.
Dave Schools redirected the musical conquest into a salacious cover of Steve Ferguson’s “Flat-Footed Flewzy” while maintaining velocity but changing direction. The always-mischievous Schools added an amusing rap into the breakdown section in saying, “You shouldn’t have trusted me! Trust is very important.” JB mesmerized throughout “Mercy”. His vocals were dragged through a tunnel of broken glass and razor wire and delivered with careful command and precision.
An improvisational psychedelic transition broke down into a primitive percussion duel which soon rebuilt into Jerry Joseph’s “Chainsaw City”. The reggae-toned cover gave Herring plenty of space to chop wood, and soon thereafter, the air was filled with sawdust. A highly sought-after performance of War’s “Four Cornered Room” emerged from the silence to overwhelm the audience. The bass-heavy tune exploded as Herring poured gasoline on the fiery inferno that was built like a funeral pyre around JB’s voice.
Segueing back into the band’s extensive catalog of originals with “Jack”, offering “whompin’ biscuits for us all” and Herring “playing the wizard in the corner” role with casual ease. To end the second set with a bang, Widespread performed a scorchin’ cover of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama.” Schools’ bass echoed the introduction of the crowd favorite after joking “This is for trusting me.” JB fittingly voicing the opening line “Red hot mama from Louisiana!” to the roaring approval from the audience.
Emerging from the shadows for a Friday night encore, Widespread Panic performed a moving rendition of The Dillards’ “There Is A Time” before finishing the night with a sentimental take on the late-great Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.”
Watch the performances of “Flat Foot Flewzy” and “Four Cornered Room” from Friday below.
Widespread Panic – “Flat Foot Flewzy” – 11/1/19
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
Widespread Panic – “Four Cornered Room” – 11/1/19
Panic concludes the three-night NOLAween tonight for one more Saturday night full of glorious tunes in the last run before New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. Have fun, Goodpeople, beware Papa Legba, and always remember the timeless wisdom of Jerry Reed, “You can sure get lost in the Louisiana bayou!” As always, you can stream full audio of the show via PanicStream.
Setlist: Widespread Panic | UNO Lakefront Arena | New Orleans, LA | 11/1/19
Set One: Bowlegged Woman > Chilly Water > Little Lilly, Visiting Day, Walkin’ (For Your Love), You Got Yours, Christmas Katie > Entering a Black Hole Backwards > Chilly Water > Bowlegged Woman
Set Two: Disco, Diner > Blackout Blues, The Last Straw > Flat Foot Flewzy, Mercy > Jam > Drums > Chainsaw City, Four Cornered Room (War cover) > Jack, Red Hot Mama (George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic cover)
Encore: There Is A Time (The Dillards cover), You Wreck Me (Tom Petty cover)
– JB vocals-only first half of “Christmas Katie” due to equipment malfunction
– “Highway To Heaven” rap during “Diner”
– “Entering a Black Hole Backwards”, LTP 4/22/2016 in North Charleston, SC