Widespread Panic Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee, WI- 9/26
After a brief 25 minutes, the band spent no time brushing off any set-break dust with the rock ‘n roll tune, “Makes Sense to me.” Keeping the energy high, Widespread then went right into a good vibe version of “Better Off” before slowing things down with the peaceful number— “the Last Straw.” While still keeping the feet of the crowd moving, the relaxing song brought a tranquil atmosphere across the venue until “You Got Yours” caused the crowd to erupt. This straight-up rocker got heads banging and fists pumping with its guitar rift-heavy chorus, until the band changed tempos yet again going into another Widespread Panic classic, “Airplane.”
“Airplane” was another song to feature one of the best jams of the night’s performance as the band progressed into a climatic jam with Herring pickin’ rapidly until JoJo took over with a Talking Heads-style keyboard jam, all while the crowd sang along to the lyrics that they knew by heart. The band fed off JoJo’s improv until the song did about a 180, transforming from an upbeat, fast tempo piece to a spacey jam.
However the real trippy jam of the night was no doubt found later in the set, with “Proving Ground.” The song began in its usual slow, country-style form until the song jammed into an all out frenzy, lead by Nance, Herring, and Ortiz. Bell then brought in the last verse and following the last chorus, the group enter an improv segment that sounded like something out of this world, leaving much of the audience in awe.
Before moving into “Proving Ground,” Panic changed tempo once again with “Vacation,” keeping set two with a diverse identity. The night sky backdrop that hovered above the stage during “Vacation” was all too fitting for the peaceful ballad, which was followed up by a brief drum-solo segment featuring Nance and Sunny.
Following the outer space jam included in “Proving Ground,” Schools busted into the dark number, “Imitation Leather Shoes” before finishing the second set with an explosive version of “Mr. Soul.”
Widespread Panic ended the first night of their three-night run in Milwaukee with the catchy, “She Caught the Katy” until treating the audience with one last rocker, “Give.”
September 26 offered a glimpse of all the diverse sides of Widespread Panic, a rock ‘n’ roll band that certainly isn’t limited to one sound or one style. Luckily for the people of Milwaukee, Panic won’t be continuing their fall tour in another city until Sunday.