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Widespread Panic Celebrates 25 Years on New Year’s Eve

Widespread Panic celebrated New Year’s Eve with a three-set performance at Charlotte, NC’s Time Warner Arena. The marathon gig—which stretched from 9 PM until 2:15 AM—marked the first time Panic has played New Year’s Eve outside Georgia or Colorado. It was also Widespread Panic’s final electric, stateside show before an indefinite hiatus (the jam titans will both perform electric in Mexico and play a series of acoustic dates in early 2012).

As part of their 25th anniversary celebration, the band created a slideshow of fan and band photos that ran throughout the night in the venue’s lobby and bar areas. The group kicked things off with a high-energy “Chilly Water” that segued into an extended jam, “Imitation Leather Shoes” and “Mr. Soul.” After playing some selections off their 2010 release Dirty Side Down, Panic invited out Randall Bramblett and his Mega Blaster horns as well as band tour manager Steve Lopez for a tasty cover of War’s “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” The Mega Blaster horns remained onstage as the song transitioned into “Bust It Big” and The Band’s “Chest Fever,” the latter of which also featured longtime Panic producer—and onetime touring member—John Keane on guitar.

In the past, Widespread Panic has sometimes opened their New Year’s Eve shows with an acoustic set but last night the band semi-unplugged for their second set (though Jimmy Herring and Dave Schools remained plugged in). The performance included Panic’s first take on “Coach” since November 20, 2009 as well as an appearance by Bramblett on “L.A.” Halfway through the set, Keane returned to play pedal steel on “Degenerate,” “C. Brown,” “Blue Indian” and “Ain’t Life Grand.”

Shortly before Midnight, Lopez took the stage to lead a celebratory New Year’s countdown. The band then returned for a full 98-minute, electric performance. The set kicked off with the Mega Blasters onstage for “Tall Boy” and the first cover of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” since October 13, 2007. The horn section emerged once again at the end of the set for a fitting “Up All Night,” a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down” and version of “You Should Be Glad” that featured Keane on guitar.

As a bonus, the band offered an almost thirty-minute encore segment that moved from “Disco” into “Surprise Valley,” “Pilgrims,” the second portion of “Surprise Valley” and, finally, “Climb To Safety.” On a more somber note, the members of Panic nodded to two fallen friends during the show: Panic collaborator Vic Chesnutt and founding guitarist Michael Houser. Before “Degenerate,” a Chesnutt original the band debuted on Halloween, John Bell said, “God bless Vic Chesnutt,” and, at the end of their second set, the group dedicated “Ain’t Life Grand” to Houser.

Here’s a look at last night’s setlist via

12.31.2011, Time Warner Arena, Charlotte, NC

Set 1: Chilly Water > JAM > Imitation Leather Shoes > Mr Soul, Cotton Was King, Shut Up and Drive, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Saint Ex > Slippin’ Into Darkness (*^)> Bust It Big (*) > Chest Fever (*#)

Set 2: (Acoustic) Henry Parsons Died, Quarter Tank of Gasoline, Coach (^^), L.A.(**), Degenerate (#), C. Brown (##), Blue Indian (##), Ain’t Life Grand (%##) (41 mins)

Set 3: Countdown by S Lopez >>>> Tall Boy (*), Love and Happiness (*^^), Tail Dragger (*) , Space Wrangler > Papa’s Home > Funk JAM > Drumz > Papa’s Home, Machine > Barstools and Dreamers, Pigeons, Up All Night (*), On Your Way Down(*), You Should Be Glad (*#)

Encore: Disco > Surprise Valley > Pilgrims > Surprise Valley > Climb To Safety

(*) Mega Blasters
(^) Lopez on percussion
(#) John Keane on guitar
($) Acoustic Set
(^^) LTP 11.20.09
(**) W/ Randall Bramblett
(##) John Keane on pedal steel
(%) JB mandolin
(^^) LTP 10.13.07,

Additional reporting by David Camferdam

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