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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2011/01/07
by Chris Diestler

Widespread Panic, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO – 12/31

Photo by Casey Flanigan

There must be an old show-going adage which states, “The enjoyment of the concert is directly proportional to the difficulty in getting there.” If not, I’m stating it now.

Single-digit (Fahrenheit!) temperatures are rare, even for Denver. The freeway between Santa Fe and the Mile High City is usually smooth sailing, but there were a few horrendous, automobile-mangling accidents along the way which slowed my progress. Luckily (?), I wasn’t one of the mangled until after the show when some knucklehead decided to blow through (or possibly skidded through) a stop light.

Nevertheless, my crew managed to arrive at the Pepsi Center a mere 3 songs into the first Panic set. Now, it’s unusual for a band (any band, in my experience) to hit the stage on time. Upon investigation, it seems Panic came on a full half-hour early – madness!

Arriving to a semi-acoustic “Wondering” worked for me. The crowd was jubilant, smiling, shaking their collective booty, ecstatic that “church” was back in session. “Who Do You Belong To?” closed the first set, which ran about 35 minutes. Despite saying they’d “be right back,” the set break was nearly as long as the set. It’s all relative, I guess; a 20-25 minute set break between two hour-long sets would’ve seemed much shorter. But now the “magic” was coming on, and the lights came down for second set.

Several highlights of note here: Schools delivered an exceptional take on “Blight,” which usually strikes me as way too gloomy but, as Goldilocks said after the third bowl, this was juuussst right. “North” – one of several Jerry Joseph songs Panic plays – was solid. This one’s been in their repertoire for years (since 1999, according to Everyday Companion), but seems to sound better with Jimmy Herring behind it. Beefier, anyway. That’s true of their sound in general since Herring joined, though I do miss Houser’s sweet vocals.

Opener Garrett Dutton (a.k.a. G. Love) stepped in during Hermann’s “Blackout Blues” to throw down a little harmonica spice. I always get a kick out of this number, and this may be one of the better versions I’ve heard. MVP of the night award goes to Hermann for bringing his A-game.

The “Bust It Big” echoed through my memory long into the wee hours of the morning, even though it’s not normally one of my faves, and led into an unusually restrained (though not acoustic) “Pleas.” The Buffalo Springfield nugget “Mr. Soul” – in Panic’s kit bag almost since their inception a quarter-century ago – finished the second set nicely.

Shock and alarm, however! I was sure they’d play through the countdown at midnight and then take a set break. Well, here it was, 11:40 p.m. and no time to check into merch or concessions or make a go for the urinal.

Whether Panic brought the confetti or it was a billed service of the Pepsi Center staff, I can’t say, but when the hockey clock counted down to midnight, every square-inch of air in the Pepsi Center was filled with the stuff. Quite a sight.

I should also mention my hat’s totally off to their lighting designer for cobbling together the diamond-trampoline display rig centerpiece. It’s the kind of “why didn’t somebody think of this before” thing that gets a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” for the buck, especially since it was most likely things they had lying around already.

Business time! Third set highlight for some (not for me, but some) was David Bromberg’s guest-appearance on “Sharon.” Fitting enough, since it was his song to begin with, and he did add some real talking-guitar razzmatazz to the proceedings. Rumor has it that Panic is/was holed up somewhere in Colorado recording with Bromberg, so keep an ear out for a release someday soon. Bromberg stuck around for a number called “Tongue,” a bluesy shuffle which may or may not be one of the songs they’re working out in the studio. Bromberg was so in the zone he failed to notice when he’d stepped out of spotlight range during his solo. Priceless.

The next half-dozen or so songs were great, including 2 of my 4 highlights of the night overall (“Blight” was the first, for those keeping score): “Imitation Leather Shoes” was without a doubt the best reading of that song I’ve heard, and “Pilgrims,” always a favorite of mine, was nothing short of sublime.

“Postcard” is one of their fast/slow/fast numbers which dates back to the early days, but was never recorded in the studio until 1993’s “Everyday.” It’s a relative rarity as far as set lists go, and was an interesting transition between “Love Tractor” and “Pilgrims,” but its presence made me miss “Machine” all the more, especially since that might’ve segued into “Barstools and Dreamers,” which, unfortunately for me, was not played. I remember also really, really hoping for a “Gilded Splinters,” but no such luck there.

However, after a beautiful “Blue Indian” for the first encore, my jaw actually dropped open in disbelief when the first notes of the second encore blared through the speakers. I can’t remember the last time my jaw dropped at an encore choice from any band. It was the late Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” Even though it was the 3rd rarest song of the night, they swaggered right through, hitting every stabbing, throbbing note. This was overall highlight number four. I was still floating through the memory of the unexpected joy of LG&M during “Action Man,” the last encore, and before I knew it, the show was over.

All told, almost 3 hours-worth of a great way to spend New Year’s Eve, if you like psychedelic southern rock. And if you can deal with the general admission floor kids who sneaked their way into your section and told you to f**k off when it was discovered they were occupying your seats. And if you don’t mind being a little more deaf afterward. And if you don’t mind coming home with a cold. And if you don’t mind a few little dings on your otherwise well-kept cruise-mobile. My buddy Andy (who actually wore a “Lawyers, Guns and Money” shirt to the show, the psychic bastard), despite being no kind of sci-fi fan, dubbed my ride “Battle-scar Galactica.” And so it shall be. My memories of a fantastic New Year’s show hopelessly entwined with all those little difficulties. Maybe you gotta pay for happiness with an equal amount of misery.

Or, maybe that’s a little overly cynical. Happy New Year, everyone!

Comments

There are 23 comments associated with this post

Burt Wheeler February 4, 2011, 19:41:36

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Burton January 14, 2011, 13:55:01

Only 2 Real Jam Bands Ever (Greatful Dead & Now Widespread Mother Fucking Panic)

Lilly White-Penis(just married) January 8, 2011, 12:49:16

Horrible review, i read the first part and after that it was just mindless fanboy dribble. By the way, does anyone know where i can buy some cheap handbags and clothes on sale?

drago January 8, 2011, 20:53:16

This looks like the WORST concert of the years. First of all.. Widespread Panics Suck so bad that we can’t listen to them for more than a couple minutes…like who goes out of their way to see these guys? And on New Year’s Eve??? WOW!!! Holy something. I have tried to listen MANY times and always heard what is clearly SHIT beyond all other shit. It’s laughable music. It’s almost like you have to be semi-retarded to enjoy it.

kevin January 8, 2011, 21:08:40

Great review! Sometimes…or a lot of times…it’s about the journey as well as the show. Been there. Enjoy the energy of WSP while you can.

j in wdstk January 9, 2011, 00:44:24

Thanks for the review. But, I can’t agree with this:
““North” – one of several Jerry Joseph songs Panic plays – was solid. This one’s been in their repertoire for years (since 1999, according to Everyday Companion), but seems to sound better with Jimmy Herring behind it. Beefier, anyway. That’s true of their sound in general since Herring joined, though I do miss Houser’s sweet vocals.” Really? You miss Mikey’s vocals and not his riffs? WTF? is all I have to say to that. Next, I also question you on the following:
“my jaw actually dropped open in disbelief when the first notes of the second encore blared through the speakers. I can’t remember the last time my jaw dropped at an encore choice from any band. It was the late Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” I’m glad you liked that, so do I. But, I’m not surprised by a song they’ve played on other big occasions. Glad you had a sort of good NYE.

UmpaLumpa January 9, 2011, 05:09:30

i was there, excellent shows, awesome confetti and disco ball…awesome!

WSP rules January 9, 2011, 06:11:03

WSP sound a LOT better with Jimmy Herring than with Mikey or GMac. Herring is probably the best guitar in Jamland today(for sure top3) and after 4 years the band suond really cohesive. Just listen the shows

j in wdstk January 9, 2011, 11:26:22

I’ve seen the shows, since 1991. I could not disagree more. Jimmy is a savant, but he’s been called the “machine” for a reason. Technique. Otherwise, give me the original.

WSP rules January 9, 2011, 12:39:48

mmmm…Jimmy is not only technique as many said. He’s a brillant fusion musician (listen the track St.Louis on Dirty Side Down), a new ingredient that brought WSP music to a whole new level. Perfect fit in my opinion.

Panic Fan January 9, 2011, 16:35:22

Wow. This article is aweful. Had to have been written by a jr high schooler.

74Jer January 9, 2011, 19:38:08

Save your money next year on these bloated, arena rock wankers. Herring is technically brilliant, but has all the cheesiness of a butt-rock fusion player, which by the way is what he always sounds like to me. Seriously, for 50 bucks less you could see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club at their annual Bluebird Theater and actually witness a band that deserves wide praise. BTW, review is “fan boy” drivel as described above. Further, to think Houser was a good singer just shows what an utter lack of exposure to real talent many of these fan boys have. There, I said it!

Muffin Man January 10, 2011, 06:15:59

Excellent shows, fantastic people, awesome band, thanx WP see you at the Fox for the 25th!

the fuckin man January 10, 2011, 11:38:15

you guys are all a bunch of stupid hippies…you don’t know shit about music or anything for that matter…do you play music? if you did you wouldn’t criticize a band thats homegrown. especially a band thats been around for 25 years…they are not what they once were of course, but awesome non the less…so grow the fuck up and realize there’s more to music then just mindless jams that all sound the same…go fuck youselves douchebags

makersandh2o January 11, 2011, 10:53:20

Awful review man. Too bad you missed the awesome Ribs & Whiskey, Don’t Be Denied acoustic opener. The twenty minute Sharon was the shit. Brombergs freestyle lyrics were hilarious. I thought it was a great show except for the EOTS>ALG third set closer. They needed to keep it funky. And, I vote Sunny for bringing the biggest A-game. Especially the first night FishH2O and drums with DJ Logic.

Doible January 11, 2011, 10:01:08

Any show with David Bromberg and Jimmy Herring had to be great. If any of you WSP fans want to hear the roots of MANY of todays jam bands – besides the Dead and Phish – listen to some of Brombergs earlier work. Sharon, Kansas City and much more is still vibrant and fun today. Dave rules!

Kara January 11, 2011, 14:53:49

Does this guy know anything about jambands?! Seriously Relix you must have someone on your staff better equipped to write a decent review! Glad I didn’t run into this guy at the show! By the way I consider myself a true panic fan and I did have floor tickets. Which means I never thought of sitting for even one moment during the entire show! Please find someone with an unbiased and all around better attitude to review shows of this magnitude in the future!

Elton January 11, 2011, 16:26:38

Give the reviewer a break. He had a good time at the show, and took the time to write about it.

Ethan Ice January 11, 2011, 18:07:23

this bands been playing 25 years, consistently to huge crowds larger than most other jambands’, culminating in these 2 arena shows. Despite suffering the loss of a founding band member, they never quit or cancelled shows because of drug problems, stupid injuries, or not getting along. Yeah, they must suck. Thank WSP for 25 years of great music and a great New Years run. For the rest of these trolls, either you get it, or you don’t, but don’t cry that everyone else does.

kevinegor January 12, 2011, 11:58:29

Dargo you don’t know good songwriting if it was up your a@@. Let me guess you have to be a Phish fan.

makersandh2o January 12, 2011, 13:41:24

Nicely said Ethan Ice

j in wdstk January 13, 2011, 23:59:42

BTW—-I like Jimmy with WSP. They sound great. But, this review insults the intelligence of the fans. I don’t see this quality of reporting about Phish on this site, for example.

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