Widespread Panic did a three-night run in Georgia on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of August. I was able to attend two of the shows on Friday the 24th and Saturday the 25th at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Friday the 24th was most certainly a classically great panic show. The first set consisted of Pleas >Mr. Soul, Dirty Side Down, Shut up and Drive >Tie Your Shoes, Airplane >Take-Off Jam >Aunt Avis >Goin’ Out West >Junior. There were not very many stand-outs in the first set; however, it was evident that the audience was in for a good night. Panic had their chemistry and energy flowing on stage, and tonight was certainly not going to be a slack show. The second set opened with a killer version of Lil’ Kin. That went into Bust It Big >Saint Ex > That Thang. Next, Panic made a smooth transition to one of their all-time crowd favorites, Ribs And Whiskey, which then transitioned into Fairies Wear Boots, which was probably the highlight of the night. The rest of the set followed with Impossible >Bass And Drums >Surprise Valley > Drums>Surprise Valley >We Want The Funk Jam >All Time Low >North. Finally, they performed a successful encore with This Part Of Town >Henry Parsons Died. I must say this was a great show. The last time I saw Widespread was at the Wakarusa festival in Arkansas, and it was very disappointing. They lacked the energy and down-home southern feel that I usually love about them. It seemed like they were just going through the motions, but tonight was completely different. The whole show was a blast and it reminded me of the fact that whenever they come back home to Georgia, they are bound to play a killer show. Although Friday’s show lacked anything truly masterful, Panic brought out many of the hits and most certainly did not disappoint.
Saturday, August 25th, however, was a whole other animal. This might have been one of the best Widespread Panic shows I have ever been to. The set list was amazing. The first set started off with a slow Porch Song to get the crowd going. They then transitioned into You Should Be Glad, Tallboy, Cotton Was King, Sharon, Thought Sausage >Travelin’ Light, Jaded Tourist. Then, Dr. Arvin Scott, another Athens local who is a professor, founded Drumming for Success, a Athens community program that provides drumming lessons for children, and who also plays a mean beat, came on stage and accompanied Panic on percussion for the rest of the set which included a spirited Red Hot Mama >Drum Solo >Arlene >Red Hot Mama. Obviously, this first set was amazing. They were on-point with every song, and I was not sure if they would be able to top the first half of the concert. My favorites for the first set included Sharon into Thought Sausage, and Red Hot Mama with a Drums and Arleen sandwich. The second set began with an explosive Disco. Next came Diner >Pilgrims. Then John Keane, another Athens-local who owns John Keane studios, came out and accompanied them on the pedal steel for From the Cradle and an energetic Ain’t Life Grand in which I do not think there was one person in the entire amphitheater that was not up and dancing. Then, they went into Drivin’ Song which continued into Postcard and back into Drivin’ Song, which then transitioned into Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane (first time ever played.) Next came the crowd favorite, Chilly Water, with a Pigeons sandwiched in between. As any Panic fan can attest to, these two sets were epic, but it still was not enough. The amazing four-song encore topped the night, and was by far my highlight for Saturday. John Keane came back out, this time on vocals and guitar for This Cruel Thing. Keane went back to the pedal steel for my favorite combination of the night, which consisted of Blight, Protein Drink >Sewing Machine. I must say that the Blight, Protein Drink, and Sewing Machine was when Panic showed their true colors. The combination was dark and eerie, and their far-reaching musicianship was exhibited.
All-in-all, Widespread Panic’s shows this past weekend will be in the history books. Not only did they play two fun and energetic shows, but they also showed that after all these years, they still got it. Widespread Panic is and will always be my favorite local band and if anyone is looking for a musical experience that you will never forget, I most certainly recommend going to see Widespread Panic live. This is when they are truly in their element, and their talent is exhibited to the upmost degree.