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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2001/11/21
by Andy Tennille

Widespread Panic, Independence Arena, Charlotte, NC- 11/16 & 17

The Queen City

There’s something about seeing Widespread Panic in the Southeast.

It's kind of like eating pizza-by-the-slice on the streets of New York City or watching a baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago – it's just one of the finer things in life. Panic on its home turf below the Mason-Dixon Line is where it’s at. No doubt about it.

Want proof? Check out the setlists from this past weekend’s two-night run at Charlotte’s Independence Arena.

11/16/01 Independence Arena, Charlotte, NC
1: Sometimes, Space Wrangler, Dyin' Man, This Part Of Town, Greta > Blight > Henry Parsons Died, Let It Rock, Thought Sausage

2: Arleen > Bear's Gone Fishin', Conrad, Don't Tell The Band, E on a G, Flat Foot Flewzy > Drums* > I Walk On Guilded Splinters* > Hatfield > Imitation Leather Shoes

E: Chainsaw City**, Chilly Water**

  • with Brad Rosen on percussion
  • with Brad Rosen on percussion, Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals

The band opened the first night by tackling “Sometimes”, their cover of a fireHose song that appears on their newest studio release, Don’t Tell the Band. Despite some sound gremlins, the band plowed through “Sometimes” and drifted into the opening notes of “Space Wrangler.” This Wrangler was big and beautiful, with a nice jam on the end that welcomed late-comers as they arrived in the arena following some serious hang-ups in the venue’s security personnel. “Dyin Man” was next and the sound problems started creeping in again- which meant I was headed for the concession stand for a Budweiser and a trip to the bathroom. I returned as keyboardist JoJo Hermann tickled the ivories for the opening of “This Part of Town”. The arena was filling up to its 10,500-seat full capacity at this point and the crowd was sliding into the groove laid down by guitarist Michael Houser.

While the first half the set was plagued with inadequate sound, the second half had no such problems. “Greta” got it off to a rocking start and the boys followed it up with a nasty “Blight.” I love Blight and I love Vic Chesnutt for writing it. This song has long been a favorite of mine and Panic’s basszilla Dave Schools tore this one apart. Schools’ bass line and percussionist Sunny Ortiz’s congo work twisted and twined through this one and led into a full-on “Henry Parsons Died”. Over the last few years, I’ve never been a huge Parsons fan. In past tours, Parsons has frequented the setlists more often than not and I grew tired of it. I always felt the song needed to be shelved for a while- a little aging would do it some justice. Not that I don’t like Bloodkin’s Danny Hutchens songwriting abilities- he’s good, but the song’s presence at shows had lost its thunder. Fast-forward until ChiWeen 2001 just a few weeks ago. As those familiar opening notes hit the crowd at UIC Pavilion, it was the same song but an entirely new Parsons. Big and burly, like a 300-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of your living room floor- just the way it’s meant to be. Charlotte’s Parsons got the same treatment. This Parsons was HEAVY and MEAN and was out to kick some ass. Which lead perfectly into the Chuck Berry classic, “Let It Rock”. The band was on fire for this one as everyone onstage seemed to be getting off. As “Let It Rock” wound down, I thought the set would surely be over eight songs and an approximately 50-minute first set but as the song closed, Houser’s guitar screamed the opening notes of “Thought Sausage”. A nasty set closer for a nice first set. This was no 50-minute set Northeast Panic: it was the real-deal, the six-headed beast rockin' full-on in North Carolina.

Second set is what Panic is all about- loud rock n roll and in your face.The band also tinkered with some silliness and threw a curveball to the crowd: The Alphabetical Setlist will be notorious for Panic fans for years. Arleen was just nasty, plain and simple- it’s rare that she opens a set and this was one for the ages. John Bell had a nice little rap in here and Schools responded with some impromptu rapping of his own. The jam out of Arleen segued nicely into Bear Gone Fishin, which slid into the biggest Conrad I’ve ever been witness to. The Panic was firing on all cylinders- it still amazes me that Conrad was one of the first songs J.B. wrote. Great lyrics for such a raw poet. This was the highlight of the two nights for me.

Don’t Tell the Band was next and it never really gets me going. I headed for a Bud and some smoke. And I was welcomed back into the arena with the soothing jam intro to “E on a G”. Right on time. This was pure magic.

Saturday night’s are the normal spot for NRBQ’s Flat Foot Flewzy, but the band needed an F to continue the alphabetical theme. The band nailed it and Sunny and drummer Todd Nance took over for Drums. Brad Rosen, from Jerry Joseph’s Jackmormons, came out to lend a hand. Guilded Splinters was driven by Bell’s vocals and slide work and led into one of craziest versions of “Hatfield” that I’ve ever laid ears on. J.B. was in fine form here, leading the band through the epic rainmaker’s tale and into the Schools-driven “Imitation Leather Shoes.”

Jerry Joseph was summoned for the rocking “Chainsaw City->Chilly Water” encore, a monster encore for a monstrous show.

11/17/01 Independence Arena, Charlotte, NC
1: Little Lilly > Blackout Blues, Party At Your Mama's House > Stop Breakin' Down Blues, Down, Radio Child > Little Kin, Barstools and Dreamers, Dream Song

2: Papa Legba > Ain't Life Grand, Cortez the Killer* > Drive* > Climb To Safety* > Drums** > Papa's Home, Red Hot Mama > Give

E: City of Dreams, Porch Song

  • with Brad Rosen on percussion, Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals
  • with Brad Rosen on percussion

['Let's Get It On' rap by JB during 'Barstools and Dreamers'; Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons opened; Mike sat in with Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons for 'The Fastest Horse In Town' and Mike and Jo Jo sat with Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons in for 'Road To Damascus' > 'We'll Be Fine']

“Little Lily->Blackout Blues” opened the second night in Charlotte. No sound problems and the crowd filled the arena by the time Hermann screamed, “Movin’ back to Mississippi, before I lose my mind.” “Party at Your Mama’s House” was next and was another welcomed instrumental. I love Panic’s songs they write great lyrics and deal with a variety of themes but their instrumentals is where they shine in my eyes. The jams. No words required.

PAYMH ran smoothly into the Stones classic, “Stop Breaking Down Blues.” I saw the first version at NOLAWEEN 00 and have seen many since the band keeps improving on this one, especially J.B. His slide work is becoming essential to the Panic sound. I think he’s taking lessons from Warren Haynes. “Down” was nice, but the heat of the two nights was the “Radio Child->Little Kin, Barstools and Dreamers, Dream! Song” that closed the first set. The Barstools was HUGE. J.B. made Marvin Gaye proud with a sweet “Let’s Get It On” rap and tease in the middle and the subtle whine of “Dream Song” was music to this fan’s ears. This one normally falls in the second set closer/encore category and for it to rear its head in the night’s first hour of music was bliss, through and through.

What better way to wake up the dreamy crowd after setbreak than the Talking Heads’ “Papa Legba”. Loud, voodoo craziness that led into “Ain’t Life Grand.” Bell welcomed back Jerry Joseph and Brad Rosen to the stage and launched into the band’s second attempt at Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer”. Panic debuted the song at this year's Halloween show and I was very disappointed. J.B. missed some of the lyrics, the eerieness of the song wasn’t right and the venue’s sound sucked.
Saturday's version was THE HEAT. Jerry Joseph made this version, simply because he is as hard-nosed, balls-to-the-wall as they come. Houser and he caught fire during this one and J.B. was on top of the vocals. It was eerie, which is actually how this tune should feel. Neil Young is a bad ass and those who cover his songs should heed caution but Panic nailed this Cortez. I hope they never play it again. It wouldn’t compare.

Cortez jammed right into a Jerry Joseph original, “Drive”, which featured a “Whole Lotta Love” tease by Joseph that nearly ripped the roof off Independence/Cricket Arena. “Climb to Safety” followed and although those who love this song said it was a great version, I wouldn’t know I grabbed a Bud and headed for the bathroom.
The “Papa’s Home” that followed out of Drums was tight and gigantic- I love hearing the band play this as they head down the home stretch of a long tour. Gives me goose bumps. The “Red Hot Mama->Give” was just what the doctor ordered rock n roll. Just the way to end a two-night run.

The “City of Dreams->Porch Song” encore was a great example of the one-two punch that Panic so often delivers. The eloquent Talking Heads cover and Panic’s anthem if there ever was one. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Don’t miss seeing these guys when they return home to the comfy confines of the Southeast. They'll knock your Aunt Connie's socks off.

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