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Published: 2010/09/27
by Randy Ray

Widespread Panic
Live in the Classic City II

_ ATO_

Widespread Panic returns with a second dish from the menu of their April 2000 Athens Classic Center Theatre run, which produced the landmark Live in the Classic City . And this isn’t a cynical second helping, or warmed-over leftovers, as the gigs, not recorded by fans, nor released in a comprehensive form, produced a fine series of songs featuring Panic cooking under any definition—musical cuisine, or otherwise.

Marking the tenth anniversary of those dates, on disc one, the band digs back into the vault for smokin’ versions of “Barstools and Dreamers” featuring Arvin Scott on percussion, and “This Part of Town” and “Sleeping Man” with producer John Keane on pedal steel guitar. What resonates on this disc is the band’s ability to present a musically varied yet consistently dialed-in performance in front of a passionate hometown crowd without sacrificing tempo, spirit, or flow. Indeed, Panic starts off hot and stays that way.

Disc two is notable for an incendiary version of a lengthy and adventurous “Rebirtha,” a delightfully playful “Greta,” a beautiful reading of “You’ll Be Fine” with Anne Richmond Boston on backing vocals, a taut, tantalizing and toasting take on “Fishwater,” and two closing numbers which are sublime, not only for their energetic fervor, but the warm contributions from their collaborative guests, including vocalist Daniel Hutchens and guitarist Eric Carter on “Success Yourself,” and Keane, Hutchens, Carter, percussionist Arvin Scott, and R.E.M.’s bassist Mike Mills on “End of the Show.”

Panic has established a high bar for their official archival live releases, whether it’s their growing Porch Song vault collections, or historical continuity gems like the Classic City series. Truth be told, one can throw a dart anywhere, hit a release, and it’s a winner. But II stands on its two-disc own by offering a robust 16 songs that show why that April 2000 Athens run was so notable at the time and beyond—there is a unique bond between Panic and its crowd that anticipates, celebrates and transcends its surroundings to produce vibrant music that sounds timeless, true and, yes, classic.

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