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Published: 2001/11/17
by Patrick Murphy

Widespread Panic, The Orpheum, Boston, MA- 11/8

After arriving three hours early for the Widespread Panic show at the
Orpheum Theater in Boston and only having to wait in line with 15-20
other people, thoughts of a lackluster Widespread performance to a less
than appreciative crowd crossed my mind. These fears were soon
abated when, fifteen minutes before the first set kicked off, I turned around
and saw what I had hoped I would see: a throng of giddy, supportive, and
more than appreciative patrons who were not only fans of WP, but fans of
good live music. The fans showed up and were more than happy to do
their part. Widespread, in turn, would not disappoint.

With the crowd already abuzz, a roar quickly accompanied the
appearance of JB and the crew on stage and the boys kicked off the show
with a rousing "Pigeons." Often a song on the mellow side, this rendition
kept the crowd gyrating and dancing to the upbeat jams between verses.
After bringing it down a notch with the tail end of the song, the mood was
set for a funky "Bear’s Gone Fishin’." In keeping with the trend,
Widespread went for the trifecta with an older tune of theirs, aptly named
"Sleepy Monkey." The audience then received a shot in the arm when a
choice selection from their Bombs and Butterflies album, "Tall Boy," was
pounded out by the men on stage. The excellent and knowledgeable
crowd was with the band step by step and neither missed a beat as the
lyrics to "Tall Boy" poured over the crowd like chilly water, further
enlivening the concert-goers.

It was now time for WP to give an exhibition of their musical skills and
jamming abilities. An energetic "Driving Song" provided Michael
Houser the vehicle to show off his lightning fingers flying up and down his
electric guitar. The energy of "Driving Song" was subdued for a moment
and made way for a smooth "Casa Del Grillo", which was highlighted by
lyrics seemingly carved from JB’s very soul. With Bell looking exhausted
from his efforts at the microphone, the guys went right back into "Driving
Song" for a stunning finish to the Space Wrangler song. After slowing
things down again, WP jazzed up the scene with a rendition of P-Funk’s
"Maggot Brain".

Just when the first set was thought to have been complete, the roller
coaster ride continued when a lively and bluesy "Big Wooly Mammoth"
sent people scurrying for a lighter to chuck up on stage. When a smiling
John Hermann asked for someone to "throw me a fire!" John Bell slyly
took shelter behind bass player Dave Schools’ ample frame. Comedic
interaction among the band was common throughout the night, further
ensuring a good time for all ticket holders. The first set ended on an
upbeat James Taylor cover titled "Knocking ‘Round the Zoo" and let the
crowd know that there was definitely more to come within the second half.

After a much-needed intermission for the worn out fans, WP once again
presided on the stage and didn’t hold back a bit. Right out of the gates a
fast and loud "All Time Low" set the tone for what was to be an amazing
second set. After the lively ‘Til the Medicine Takes jam, the crowd saw a
somewhat rare lead vocalist job by Dave Schools in "Blight". Another WP
and crowd favorite was soon to follow when "Climb to Safety" was expertly
done by the charged up band. The ebb and flow of the concert was
definitely apparent when again things slowed down to introduce a
somewhat eerie "Let’s Get the Show On the Road". The Michael Stanley
tune served its purpose, however, as a fitting segue for a scarcely
played, unreleased Widespread Panic instrumental called "Happy Child".
The lamenting, at times haunting, song was along the lines of a Pink
Floyd instrumental and was a definite departure from the first songs of the
second set.

With the mandolin strapped onto JB, the crowd chattered and buzzed with
anticipation. Soon they were singing along with the title track of the
classic Ain’t Life Grand album. With the concert quickly approaching its
apex, "Ain’t Life Grand" gave way to a fist-pumping "Chilly Water". The
band then received another break as Domingo Ortiz went to work on his
various percussion instruments. Going to town on his bongos, Sunny
periodically brought out about five different instruments, each to applause
from the capacity crowd. "Chilly Water" was then revisited by WP after a
"Drums" that appeared tortuous to Sunny Ortiz. With Panic coasting after
a more than enjoyable start to the second set, they brought it home with a
very mellow "Blue Indian" and an impressive cover of Muddy Waters’ "Red
Beans".

With a relentless crowd whistling and begging for more, the six
troubadours again took their places on stage for what was to be a
pleasing encore. After a show that saw three lead singers on different
songs, it was time for Michael Houser to step up to the plate. Houser led
the band in a flowing "This Part of Town" that gave way to a piercing jam
just before the third verse. The final farewell took place after a very
energetic and politically charged "Makes Sense to Me". With his
trademark "Thank you very much. Thank you Boston," JB filed off of the
stage with his five partners. It took quite a while for the large crowd to
shuffle out of the Orpheum Theater that night, but I know the people
leaving that concert, including myself, wouldn't have it any other way.

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