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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2011/09/25
by Brennan Lagasse

Widespread Panic, Orpheum Theater, Boston, MA – 9/16

Widespread Panic just kicked off their massive fall tour last week with two well-received shows in Boston, MA. With a tour light on northeast dates, and focused more on their primary stomping grounds in the southeast, the boys came to play at the historic Orpheum Theater in Boston. Since Panic has announced their hiatus, which will begin after an unmatched run of special shows in Mexico this winter, the fire from their 25th year of playing as a band has only got stronger. Bringing their A-game to Boston, Panic left many show attendees figuring out last minute plans to try and make it down to New York for their Saturday show in Brooklyn.

Friday’s first set got off to a solid start with a nice segue of “Imitation Leather Shoes” into a high energy take on “Who Do You Belong To?” “Proving Ground” followed, which bled right into a newer tune from the band’s most recent album, “Cotton Was King.” Nothing too crazy came from these first four songs, but they were played well, and the crowd was definitely hanging on every note. “Little Lilly” was up next, which was followed by the fan favorite “Walkin’” and another take at a newer song in “Angels on High”.

While the band seemed to be having fun on stage, the classic style of Panic that’s as textured and layered in their playing as any band out there today was clearly seen in the funky rhythms of keyboardist JoJo Herman, guitar hero Jimmy Herring, and the deep bass of David Schools. The first set had been flowing quite well up until this point in the show, that is until the boys brought out Trombone Shorty, who had been warming up the Boston crowd prior to Panic’s sets on both nights.

Not only were the final two songs of the first set the highlight of the initial offering from Widespread on this evening, but the segue of “Rebirtha” into “Blackout Blues” was one of the stronger chunks of Widespread Panic music this reviewer has seen in some time. Ever thankful for what Jimmy has brought to the band, and always aware of the old magic consistently brought to every show by fallen founder Mikey Houser, it’s that extra special something that’s sometimes necessary these days for a Panic show to go above and beyond. This evening’s dose came straight from New Orleans, and all that needs to be said is Trombone Shorty rips. He not only tore through several solo opportunities the band stepped back to let him play on, but the crowd went absolutely nuts when he went for it. This is for surely a piece of music worth going back to listen to if you haven’t heard it yet; pure horns-infused ‘WSMFP’ magic.

After a great first set, and the third of four Boston sets behind them, expectations were high for set two. Thankfully, Panic did not disappoint. When lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Bell stepped to the stage with his mandolin, “Ain’t Life Grand” picked up the energy from where Trombone Shorty and the boys had left off after set one. A perfectly played instrumental in “Party at Your Mama’s House” followed, which flowed right into “Flicker,” a nice free-from jam, and finally a “Blue Indian” before the band took a second to catch their collective breath.

Although the end of the first set was an absolute highlight, the final four selections, as well as a drums segment, reminded us all that it’s hard to find a tighter rock and roll show on tour today than Widespread Panic.

With Trombone Shorty back out for the seldom played cover “Pusherman,” the rest of the set felt like a cohesive tapestry, showcasing excellent chord progressions, deep jams, and soaring highpoints. Percussionists Todd Nance and “Sonny” Ortiz laid an extremely danceable groove during a “Drums” jam flowing out of “Pusherman,” before Jimmy Herring set the Orpheum ablaze with “Action Man.” Making sure the crowd had gotten their fill, as for many fans in attendance, this might be their last Panic show for who knows how long, the notes to the great blues standard, and old Grateful Dead cover “Good Morning Little School Girl” filled the venue to the delight of all. Finally, perhaps the most classic Panic tune, if there is such a thing, “Chilly Water” closed the set with water bottles emptying everywhere, and Orpheum staff members unable to contain the crowd from filling up walkways and just about any available space to dance at the venue. The all-out free-for-all felt good, and even the staffers seemed to look on with envy at this point.

A double encore of “Expiration Day” coupled with the Jerry Joseph tune “Climb to Safety” sent the Boston crowd out into the warm New England night. All in all it was a great night in Boston, especially for a band that continues to leave it all on the stage after more than 25 years of playing music together. These were a great couple of shows to open up Panic’s last real tour for a while, and a great way to send a message to all their fans that they’re in for some really special nights over the next several weeks.

Comments

There are 13 comments associated with this post

dontpanic56 September 27, 2011, 08:39:42

YES!!! i cannot wait for the Omaha show and then the milwaukee run. I love how they are sure to make the point that they aren’t fading out, but rather showcasing all they got!! keep it up boys WE LOVE YOU

RAW77 September 27, 2011, 13:30:43

Bring that fire to the midwest, We are ready to light it up in Minneapolis!!!!

My-gamechangers.com September 27, 2011, 16:45:01

Great review! Best way to start the tour. Glad WSP made a stop up here before heading down south.

dragen September 29, 2011, 11:54:13

I was really disappointed with the whole thing. First off.. I couldn’t score any dr0gs so I was sober for the first time at a WPS show. Second I realized how much the music bored the shit out me and my pals who were pissed and made me refund there ticket money.

kevinegor September 29, 2011, 13:21:37

Savannah will be the best shows first shows to sell out and the Jonny Mercer Theatre has one of the best sound systems

Will September 29, 2011, 16:36:05

Any rumors they will hit some of their old stomping grounds that made them vastly popular like Valdosta, Augusta, Huntsville etc??

kevin p. October 2, 2011, 15:16:00

C U in Milwaukee…with a PBR tall-boy!!!!!!!!!!

g-money October 3, 2011, 16:25:05

dragen September 29, 2011, 11:54:13 “I was really disappointed with the whole thing. First off.. I couldn’t score any dr0gs so I was sober for the first time at a WPS show. Second I realized how much the music bored the shit out me and my pals who were pissed and made me refund there ticket money” only losers need to be high to enjoy a show. i like my fun, but to be unhappy that you couldnt score is fucking sad.

makersandh2o October 4, 2011, 09:14:23

yeah man. i did raleigh sober. well, drunk sober and it was freakin great. setlists looked better than boston though and we did have dj logic both nights. regarding savannah being the first to sellout…raleigh actually did sell out both nights, so did tuscaloosa, second night boston, second and third night knoxville and third night richmond.

timmy October 4, 2011, 12:40:51

@dragen: It really sucks that you associate being high with the quality of a performance. You must not understand music very well if it bores you if your not loaded. Your friends must be complete d-bags. You guys should go to a Lady Ga Ga show next time.

V October 4, 2011, 16:23:24

What the F is a “WPS show” anyway?

Bob October 16, 2011, 22:33:17

Why would any of you folks even respond to dragen? Clearly just trolling. Sooo….I just got back from the Akron show. This was my 4th show with Herring (did most of my Panicking in the Mikey days). I’ve got some hang-ups and I’d like some feedback. I’ve always had trouble hearing Schools clearly in the mix. I FEEL the bass more than I hear distinguishable notes. Not all the time every show, but much of the time for most of the shows and that’s almost criminal for bassist of his calibre. Soundboards or the Light Fuse are the only way I ever REALLY get to hear is talents shine. Am I alone? Also, I just can’t fully get behind Herring. He has a dominant tone on his Strat that he just doesn’t ever stray from or mix up and it’s just so bright that it borderlines on abrasive and seems to overpower the mix. Again, anyone else feel this way? And holy whammy bar dependency Batman!! He is technically as solid and saavy as they come but it almost seems robotic to me. I just don’t feel any emotion behind his playing. He doesn’t make it cry or sing. He did break out a Telecaster (no whammy bar) for one tune and for all three encore songs and it was like night and day for me. It fit so much better and I wished he’d played it most of the night and just broke out the Strat for a handful of the most powerful selections of the night. Sorry to sound like a basher. I really do love Panic and their entire catalog of music I just would love to see some modifications that might bring a richer and more balanced sound night in and night out.

makersandh2o October 17, 2011, 14:01:15

Hey. Well, not sure I can comment appropriately to your Schools inquiry. I seem to always hear him in the mix quite well. Yes, not as much as in the past, but I think I still hear him in there pretty well. As for Herring…that’s the thing. I’m not sure about him anymore. Yes. He is an amazing artist and he fills in the Mikey licks that he needs to just about perfectly, but in the improv solos (not so much the case with the bluesy jams and melodic transition jams) its all the same structure it seems with him and is becoming very predictable (perhaps why a hiatis now is really what they need). I’m not saying I think the the level of they’re playing is diminishing, quite the contrary (am I providing an oxymoron?), I think it is continuously climbing mountains. As for the whammy bar comment…it seems Jimmy has been experimenting with it more and more in a big band structure since he joined Panic rather than his usual trippy experimenting with his past bands. I think he’s looking for a trademark mastering if that makes any since. Mikey is the master of the volume pedal, Derek Trucks the finger strumming and so on…I’d like to comment more and more, but think I’ve bored many by now so…bye

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