Widespread Panic, UIC Pavilion, Chicago, IL 4/12-13
Photo by Norman Sands
Spreadheads drove from far and wide to the UIC Pavilion for the weekend opener of Widespread Panic’s 2013 tour. The band had last played there in 2003 and has since opted to play smaller venues such as the Vic and Chicago Theaters. The building itself doesn’t have any particular historical luster like other venues, but it was serviceable in providing more than ample ceiling room for the occasional glow stick toss. While both concerts were not quite sold out, they were enthusiastically attended and lent to quite a festive atmosphere.
The band showed no rust on their first electric tour since a self imposed hiatus at the end of 2011, brought out a heater of a first set to Friday evening in a manner normally reserved for the middle of a tour segment. The opener “From The Cradle (Black Hole)” set up perfectly for the band’s sound to wander towards the dark with “Imitation Leather Shoes”> “Bowlegged Woman.” The expansive jams and tight segues were seamless as the set list reflected a mix of ragers and ballads. “C Brown” and “Carmelita” deftly balanced the darker swampy sounding bass lead funk predominating the set. Second set Friday picked up the pace with the band stringing together hits like “Pigeons” and “Can’t Get High.” “Pleas” built up the anticipation and got the crowd into it with the change of pace guitar soloing from Herring. He simply is one of the most accomplished musicians from a technical standpoint that delivers masterful performances with ease and grace. The sold out floor section of the venue responded noticeably to the main segment of “Ride Me High” > “Driving Song” > “St Louis” >” Climb To Safety” > “Driving Song” with fervor. Closing out the evening was “Me & The Devil Blues” and the crowd favorite “Conrad The Caterpillar”.
On Saturday night the crowd was noticeably larger with the venue removing the curtain that had blocked part of the upper sections in the arena. The band came out swinging in perfect form as JB led “Heroes” > “Space Wrangler” to blow the doors off early. Jimmy Herring’s guitar blazed a path alongside bass stalwart Dave Schools as the band whipped the crowd into a frenzy with “Hatfield” into the rarely performed “Chuck of Coal”. Second set “Love Tractor” > “Who Do You Belong To” broke loose the dance party while the encore paid homage with a nod to Levon Helm with a double dose of The Band covers in “Ophelia” > “Shape I’m In.” Most of the crowd sang along and were made warmer only for a few hours with good tunes and good people.