Widespread Panic, State Theatre, Detroit, MI- 10/20
With the World Series on the horizon in Detroit, Widespread Panic rolled into the State Theater for the second straight year for some southern rock and tailgating. The Comerica Park parking lots filled with anxious fans before the show and Woodward Avenue was bustling with Panic fans.
The first set was very high energy, and opened with “Surprise Valley>Red Hot Mama.” Guitarist Jimmy Herring fit in perfectly, as he flowed and filled solos seeming relaxed and at home onstage with Panic. Herring wasn’t overplaying or trying to do too much, and with John Keane joining on guitar for most of the first set, (as well as on slide guitar for “From The Cradle”) Herring wasn’t overbearing but seemed comfortable. “Action Man” closed out the first set with some great crowd energy in the crowded State Theater. The general feel from Panic fans I overheard was that Herring had brought back of what was missing with former guitarist George McConnell.
The second set was one of highs and lows. It started off with “Disco” and keyboardist Jojo Herman spring popped on the keys, rotating from organ to piano. Keane joined for “Disco” but left as the song gave way to “Conrad.” Bassist Dave Schools plucked the signature bassline of “Conrad” as the crowd bounced along with the choppy tune. The calming “Driving Song” sandwiched the funky, high paced “Rebirtha” for a great contrast as guitarist John Bell’s calming voice on alternates between the two. “Tallboy” rallied the crowd as it came out of the second half of “Driving Song.” Herring and Keane each took one harmony of the solo playing off each other fluidly, which made for a stellar solo to the fun tune. Schools stood out again on the final two of the second set, “Porch Song>Solid Rock.”
For an encore, appropriately “City of Dreams” came first, presumably in ode to the city of Detroit for the night. Before beginning Schools told the crowd “Alright Detroit, good luck,” in response to the antsy crowd’s yelling of “Let’s Go Tigers!” before the encore. “City of Dreams” was brief but Keane’s slide guitar accented the soothing tune perfectly. For a three-song encore, “Give” was followed by the booming bass introduction to “Imitation Leather Shoes.” “Imitation Leather Shoes” slammed dueling guitars and a big bass groove from Schools while Bell’s voice still held its own in the madness. Overall Panic played a very good show for the perfectly packed State Theater. Some of what it seems was missing with McConnell looks to be somewhat back with Herring on guitar duties, although it also doesn’t hurt to have John Keane pop in occasionally.