Photos: Widespread Panic kicks off four nights at Red Rocks - Reverb

Widespread Panic at Red Rocks Amphitheatre 6-27-13 (photos, review)

I first saw Widespread Panic play Red Rocks in 1994, when the Georgia sextet opened Blues Traveler’s annual July 4 show. Over the years, I’ve seen many memorable concerts by the band at the famed venue, which Panic holds the sellout record for (it will be up to 42 after Sunday). However, Thursday night’s show, the first of a four-night run at Red Rocks, was not one of them.

“Comfortable” is one adjective that might be applied to the two sets the band played. At times, “somnambulant” would have been another. The band quickly found a mild groove and rarely strayed from it. In fact, the first four songs of the second set felt like they were played at the exact same tempo, and then instead of picking up the pace from there, they went even slower. The vibe from the stage felt like “We’re here, it’s Thursday, we’re going to be mellow and hang out with 9,400 of our friends and use this show as a warm-up to get the rust off.”

In fact, both the first set and the second set felt very similar after four songs had been played. There were instrumentals (“A of D” in the first set, “Party at Your Mama’s House” in the second), long, rambling jams between songs (between “Better Off” and “Weak Brain/Narrow Mind” in the first, between “Party at Your Mama’s House” and “Ribs and Whisky” in the second,” and even what always felt like filler songs from the band’s 1999 release “Til the Medicine Takes” (“Bear’s Gone Fishin'” in the first set, “Blue Indian” in the second).

There’s also something about lead guitarist Jimmy Herring’s playing that clashes with the mellow vibe the band projected. Herring’s guitar tones are piercing, bordering on shrill at times. During the quieter, slower parts of the jam on “Party at Your Mama’s House,” Herring’s playing overwhelmed the mood of the song. When Herring lays back in the pocket, as on “Walkin'” during the first set, he meshes much better than when he goes on screaming, metal-esque solos, as he did on “Papa’s Home.”

There were some musical highlights from the show however. The first set closing cover of James Taylor’s “Knocking ‘Round the Zoo” had a fun, mischievous feel to it, with the dirty rock and roll grit that Panic at its best can bring. “Rock” built well from a slow groove to a rocking jam to end it.

Ultimately though, this show was a disappointment, and by the time the drum solo came in the second set, I’d had enough. It’s the first time I can ever remember leaving a Panic show early. Here’s hoping they pick it up later this weekend.

Set 1

A of D -> Rock, Better Off -> Weak Brain/Narrow Mind, Dyin’ Man, Bear’s Gone Fishin’, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Pickin’ Up The Pieces, You’ll Be Fine, Knocking ‘Round The Zoo

Set 2
Weight of the World, Papa Johnny Road -> Party At Your Mama’s House -> Ribs and Whiskey, Papa’s Home -> Blue Indian -> Drums -> Papa Legba -> Papa’s Home -> Sewing Machine, Red Hot Mama, E: Don’t Be Denied, Hope in a Hopeless World

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.

  • Snafunk’ve seen 42 shows and you never left one early? Not even a George show? I can’t believe that…

    • Candace

      Nope, never left early before, even during the dark days of George. During those years, I was usually taping, and had people patched out of me, so I didn’t want to cause a ruckus in the taper section.

      • Snafunk

        While I’ll agree it wasn’t the best show since Mikey died it wasn’t bad enough to leave early!

  • Curtis George

    she completely missed the “Mamas & Papas” theme of the 2nd set and encore which is significant when judging the setlist played

    • beegirl

      First thing I picked up on. Maybe seeing it in writing was different than being there…but I am quite envious of missing that set!

    • Candace

      Clever setlist structure does not overcome boring playing…

  • G$

    Bummer you missed that Red Hot Mama, it crushed

  • SSEO

    I first saw Widespread in 1989 in a bar in Tuscaloosa. Probably seen them 150 times over the years including Red Rocks shows. I saw them do a set list like this once in Birmingham, very mellow show. Schools even asked them to turn the lights down at on point.

    If I had to guess, I would say this set list was designed to give JB a break from singing hardcore all night, easing into that four day run. Hence, the instrumentals, the slower songs and the songs featuring other folks. Most of those other songs are sort of ensemble leads (including the songs which Houser used to sing) or songs which require less vocal strain from JB. That would also explain the tempo progression you noticed.

  • Clay

    Widespread sucks and has always sucked!!!
    Old school deadheads don’t go see loser band with loser fans!!!

  • Jackie Treehorn

    The last couple years, I’ve tried to pick one night to go, which is a bit of a crapshoot. Some of the shows have indeed been lackluster; or at least not the type of show I was looking for. But Friday night renewed my faith that they still have it in them. What Thursday lacked, Friday more than made up for with the combination of music and an amazing lightning show backdrop. Hope you made it there- if so, you more than likely would have added positive follow-up comments to your article!

  • Skian

    Save your ticket for a real fan next time and go see Dave Mathews instead.

  • JimMcConnell

    Hard to take anyone seriously that openly boasts of taping George shows. Ruckus or not, you made the conscious decision to preserve those abortions. Your opinion is moot.