Rock and roll legends Widespread Panic and their tireless fanbase climbed the steep incline of Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a divine Sunday service. The veterans of jam rock break their own record every time they play the Colorado venue, capping off this last weekend with the band’s 69th consecutive sold-out show. After nearly 40 years together, the band keeps its setlists unpredictable by rotating the songs, sequences, and song positions. Last night, Widespread Panic debuted two new songs and brought a fan-favorite classic off the shelf for the first time since 2016.
As the doors opened and the tarps and blankets laid claim to priceless real estate, a cool breeze drifted through fans basking in the third consecutive day of blue skies and sunshine—a far cry from last week’s hailstorms and lightning. The audience’s excitement continued to fester before spilling over once the band walked on stage and opened with a stimulating “Up All Night”. Panic eased anxieties and mellowed the tempo into “C. Brown” before an infernal “Disco” jolted the crowd to dance.
Widespread Panic – “Up All Night” – 6/25/23
Inspired by an archeological discovery not far from the legendary venue, JoJo Hermann unearthed a behemoth “Big Wooly Mammoth” to set the stage for Jimmy Herring to open a portal to the netherworld with his gold PRS. Before the music could fade out, Dave Schools led the vanguard into his bass opus “Stop Go” and tacked on a legendary solo into the mix. John Bell channeled Leonard Cohen for a buoyant “That Don’t Make It Junk”-inspired rap.
After a long pause, the first debut of the night, “King Baby”, had all the experienced WSP aficionados in attendance scratching their heads as they tried to place the tune. The new original had distorted guitar riffs, a badass tone, edgy lyrics, a scintillating piano breakdown, and John Bell’s crisp vocals. The song is sure to be a favorite for years to come.
Schools remained at the helm for a run-through of Vic Chesnutt’s “Sleeping Man” before honoring former drummer Todd Nance with a poignant rendition of “Down”. Closing the first frame, Panic performed “Protein Drink / Sewing Machine” out of brute.’s collection (a group in which both Vic Chesnutt and Todd Nance were members).
Following set break, Panic returned to the stage and their own catalog for “Holden Oversoul” and “Little Lilly” before redirecting the bassline into the scorching rhythms of Parliament Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama”. Still unfinished, WSP descended into the heavy percussions of “Rock”. JB equipped his slide for a suave solo and Schools added profanity to the call and response section: “I’m gonna make it home… I’m gonna make it home / Piece by mother-f*ckin’ piece.”
Widespread Panic – “Holden Oversoul” – 6/25/23
A short silence was broken by the steadily building instrumental “Party At Your Mama’s House”. Jimmy Herring continued to spice things up as he diced his way through the instrumental and into a hot tamale “Pilgrims” with two triumphant solos.
As the second set wound down, more surprises lied in wait just over the horizon. Widespread Panic busted out “Fishing” for only the 13th time in the Jimmy Herring era and the first time since early 2016 in Athens, GA—a gap of 292 shows!
Widespread Panic – “Fishing” – 6/25/23
Just like on the night prior, Panic kept it fishy on consecutive songs and finished off the second set with a raunchy “Fishwater” sandwich that surrounded a smokin’ interpretation of Winston Riley’s “Arleen”.
After retaking their respective positions on stage, John Bell introduced the encore with a heavy heart and pain in his voice.
“Thank you all for a lovely weekend. As most of you know, we’ve been paying mostly silent tribute to our friend, Bill Bass, who passed away recently. I can’t begin to tell you how important he has been to Widespread Panic, definitely playing here but playing anywhere. He’s one of those cats that you remember that your life would be a whole lot different without him. So this one’s for Bill.”
Without hesitating, Widespread Panic covered Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart” for the first time ever, and there wasn’t a dry eye to be found in the stands. JB wielded Zevon’s lyrics like a battle axe and cut the crowd to emotional tatters.
While the audience hopelessly attempted to collect themselves, JB put on his slide once more to work through the first two verses of “Chilly Water” solo before the rest of the band joined in to hammer home the chorus and beyond. The crowd freed any and all water on hand from their plastic prisons, showering the raging spectators with the only precipitation of the entire weekend. To conclude 2023’s historic WSP Red Rocks run, the six-piece warmed up the ol’ reliable engine of “Love Tractor” for one final joy ride.
It has been said countless times, yet still needs to be reiterated: “Never Miss a Sunday Show!” The Sunday crowd counted their blessings while returning home, minds blown, but hearts and souls full. The smiles, dances, and hugs amongst our own will last longer than the echoing riffs reverberating between Ship and Creation Rocks as we entomb another weekend of cherished moments, companionship, and camaraderie into our memory banks.
Thanks Colorado and the GoodPeople for making this such a special run and year. Until next time, strive for greatness, always. We’re the lucky ones.
Click below to view fan-shot videos from Widespread Panic at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and visit the band’s website to view upcoming tour dates.
Widespread Panic – “Stop Go” – 6/25/23
Widespread Panic – “Sleeping Man” (Vic Chesnutt) – 6/25/23
[Video: Tom Yaley]
Widespread Panic – “Red Hot Mama” (Parliament Funkadelic) – 6/25/23
[Video: Tom Yaley]
Setlist: Widespread Panic | Red Rocks Amphitheatre | Morrison, CO | 6/25/23
Set 1 Up All Night, C. Brown, Disco > Big Wooly Mammoth > Stop Go, King Baby, Sleeping Man, Down, Protein Drink / Sewing Machine (72 mins)
Set 2 Holden Oversoul, Little Lilly > Red Hot Mama (Parliament Funkadelic) > Rock, Party At Your Mama’s House > Pilgrims, Fishing > Fishwater > Arleen > Fishwater (76 mins)
Encore Keep Me In Your Heart, Chilly Water, Love Tractor (21 mins)
Notes – ‘That Don’t Make It Junk’ rap during ‘Stop Go’
– FTP ‘King Baby’ (new original – JB lead vocals)
– LTP ‘Fishing’ 2/10/16 Athens (292 shows)
– FTP ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’ (Warren Zevon) ~ Dedicated to the late Bill Bass
– JB solo during ‘Chilly Water’ until first chorus
– Entire show with Edie Jackson (ASL)