Widespread Panic, the unstoppable titans of rock and roll, continued their Mexican conquest on Sunday with guests in attendance parading debauchery throughout the eleven buildings of the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya. Much like the first two nights, last night’s show was truly spectacular.
Widespread Panic returned to their blues roots to open the show, pulling out the classic standard “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” for the first time since the first night of New Year’s Eve run in 2017. The boys then “turned up the dial, and electrified!” by unleashing the musical power of the sextet with a caustic rendition of their own “Radio Child”. John Bell mystified throughout “Up All Night” with a humble nod to the few sturdy audience members who made it to see the sunrise. A rockin’ cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Cream Puff War” obliged the desires of the crowd before John Bell took it down a notch with a sentimental “Gimme”.
Jimmy Herring led the way to destroy the instrumental “B of D” before Dave Schools took the helm and drove home a hearty “Weight of the World” from their self-titled sophomore album. John Bell got extra weird for a piano-laden ride through “Steven’s Cat” before JoJo Hermann commandeered the ship for an intoxicating version of “Blackout Blues”. To close the first set, the boys nailed The Guess Who’s coveted combination of covers with “No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature.”
After a lengthy set break gave the audience enough time to refresh and return rejuvenated, Sunny Ortiz’s drums revealed the introduction to “Fishwater”. This mouthwatering fish sandwich contained a mollywhoppin’ “Bust It Big” with extra marinades of Herring. “Bust It Big” always whips the crowd into a frenzy, and last night was no different. The relevant lyrics—“Beware of the man who builds monuments to himself” and, especially, “Call my shots and ride my ticket down… TO MEXICO!!”—were sung by both the ravenous audience and JoJo Hermann as Señor Trump threatens to build a wall along the border. The band returned to finish “Fishwater” in call-in-response sexiness between Schools, JB, and JoJo before an otherworldly “Blue Indian” sent shivers up spines in spite of the tropical weather and warm breeze.
Moving along the color spectrum, the Panics crushed a cover of Murray McLauchlin’s “Honky Red”, the enthusiastic crowd resembling an Aztec ceremony of prayer and worship. Jimmy Herring piloted the music past the dark side of the moon and through a black hole during the galloping riffs of “Space Wrangler.”
From there, Widespread Panic welcomed Luther and Cody Dickinson in order to return to blue once more with a bone-chilling version of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues”. John Bell’s soul was tormented by “evil spirits” as he sang, and his performance was of one of haunted man. The Dickinson brothers remained onstage to ace a rare cover of R.L. Burnside’s “Snake Drive”, a song that’s been absent from setlists since before the days of Jimmy Herring or Duane Trucks. The tune had not seen the light of a Panic stage since 2005 in Denver.
Widespread Panic w/ Luther & Cody Dickinson – “Snake Drive” [R.L. Burnside cover]
The other musicians then left the stage, giving Duane Trucks, Sonny Ortiz, and Cody Dickinson (on washboard) room to roam—and roam, they did, with primal yells and non-stop percussive rhythms. When they finally returned to Earth, the rest of the band fell in line to devour a jaunty “Sell, Sell” before concluding the second set with the beautiful reminder that “Ain’t Life Grand”.
Returning from the darkness, Widespread Panic played a brilliant take on their original song, “Nobody’s Loss”, with JoJo Hermann on lead vocals. The tune made it into the setlist only three times in the last three years, and this performance left the audience awestruck. To hammer home the show in true badass form, the Panics reverted down the color spectrum for a scorchin’ “Red Hot Mama”. Following another day lost in Mexican paradise, the audience was drooling for more. Lucky for us, there is still one more night of Widespread Panic on the horizon. Be there or be super lame, around 8:15 EST for streamers. Never miss a Monday Night 4 show, right?
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Panic En La Playa Ocho | Riviera Maya, MX | 1/27/19
Set One: Good Morning Little Schoolgirl > Radio Child, Up All Night, Cream Puff War, Gimme, B of D, Weight of the World, Steven’s Cat, Blackout Blues, No Sugar Tonight / New Mother Nature (70 mins)
Set Two: Fishwater > Bust It Big > Fishwater, Blue Indian, Honky Red, Space Wrangler, Me and the Devil Blues*, Snake Drive** > Drums Jam*** > Drums > Sell Sell, Ain’t Life Grand (96 mins)
Encore: Nobody’s Loss, Red Hot Mama (15 min)
* w/ Luther Dickinson (guitar) and Cody Dickinson (keys)
** LTP 11/03/05 Denver (852 shows); First time with Jimmy or Duane; w/ Luther (guitar/vocals) & Cody (keys/vocals)
*** w/ Cody on washboard
– ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ LTP 12/29/17 Atlanta (41 shows)