Widespread Panic, Macon Centreplex, Macon, GA- 10/18
Having been at the show the Saturday before in New Orleans (where Jerry
Joseph sat in), I felt it would be a monumental task for Widespread Panic to
equal or better the energy and overall vibe of that night a week later in
Macon, Georgia. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed as if
this really could be a special evening. From my perspective it seems as if the band
has really been delivering at its Saturday shows, the best night for folks who
work during the week to travel- thus, larger crowds and the size and
energy of the crowd can have a whole lot to do with the overall energy and
vibe coming from the band. Plus, Panic loves the Southeast, and they certainly
feel at home in Georgia. So here we were, band and fans on a Saturday night in
Georgia for the last time for a while.
My companion for the evening's festivities was the same person it has
been for exactly one year now, my lovely girlfriend Shannon (we met and saw
Umphrey's McGee- Zydeco, Birmingham- on 10/17/02; one hell of a first date!).
We left Montgomery, where we live, for the Panic show in Macon at 1:30.
Losing an hour crossing time zones, we arrived at the lot around 5:45. The
scene was already very lively, the lots were buzzing with anticipation. Shannon
and I headed into the Macon Centerplex at 7:10 for a scheduled
start time of 7:30. We found seats we liked (Dave) Schools' side (right)
about fifteen rows up.
The lights went down and the band took the stage around 7:45-8:00.
They came right out with a stompin' "Flat Foot Flewzy." A very fitting tune
to set the pace for the evening: "singing flewzy woozy boogie on a Saturday night."
The band then kept the early energy up with "Wondering." Honestly, I didn't feel
like this "Wondering" quite made it to where I've heard this song go the last few
times I've seen them play it with George (McConnell). I love the solos I've heard
George pull off during this tune. But on this night, it just didn't get there. In fact, the band
really didn't seem to tap in and connect until a little later in the set.
After wrapping up "Wondering," the band moved to the dark side for the
second consecutive Saturday in which "Henry Parsons Died," a choice which proved
fitting and well placed. Then George, JB, and Dave swapped out their
electric axes for acoustic instruments for a mellow and fluid duo of tunes: "Fishing"
and "Trouble." Before plugging back in with their electric axes, the band built the energy
back up with "Space Wrangler." Having heard them play an electric version this the
previous Saturday before in New Orleans, it was nice and refreshing to hear an acoustic rendition of this classic. It didn't have the energy of a week earlier, but it
was acoustic and hit the spot perfectly as a momentum builder. Continuing
the climb to what would lie ahead, the band delivered the new fireball, "Sparks Fly." This three minute burst of energy from their latest studio album, Ball, is still
young and rough, but nevertheless, served its purpose as a catapult.
It was here that Panic really seem to tap in and connect, as the band dived into some "Dirty
Business." This tune, written by John Dawson of The New Riders of the
Purple Sage, seemed to be a defining theme of the evening as JB smirked,
"dirty business down on Coal Creek." The band journeyed into some extended
and intense jamming during this tune, and this is where they really took
off. The band closed out the set with a high energy version of Little Feat's "Down on the
Farm," and a rollicking fun JoJo (Herman) tune, "Daisy Mae." I had never
heard the last four songs of the set played live before, and was very happy
to hear them. "Sparks Fly" and "Daisy Mae" are pretty new originals, and
"Dirty Business" and "Down on the Farm" are fairly rare cover tunes.
I'd like to briefly take this opportunity to say after much contemplation and very critical
listening, GEORGE IS OK WITH ME. In fact, he's more than ok. This will
never be the same band it was with Michael Houser. Those were very special
years. But, just because it will never be the same, doesn't mean it can't
be as good, if not better, than it ever has been. This Fall Tour has offered some of
the best playing this band has ever pulled off; they are in tune, tapped in,
and fully connected. George has brought a whole new and different, lively
energy to the equation, and he is fully in the mix with the rest of the
band. It is obvious that he is thrilled and excited to be in the role he is in, and it
really comes through in his playing on stage. His solos often seem to be driven
by the energy of the crowd; when the audience roars and swells in energy so
does his guitar. All in all, he fits the mold of Widespread Panic perfectly.