While Friday’s Widespread Panic set at Red Rocks proved an appetizer, with just enough high moments for it to be a solid overall show, on Saturday, Panic brought the heat for its fans. This was a rock show, with a capital “R,” from the moment the band took the stage.
Jimmy Herring stepped up early to drive the band on the opening “Holden Oversoul,” finding a groove over John “JoJo” Hermann’s piano fills and Dave Schools’ rollicking bass line.
The only down moment of the show came with the oddly placed slow number “Old Joe” right after such a strong opener, but by the fourth song, a fiery “North,” the band seemed back into its rock and roll groove, and the playing gave plenty of opportunities for fans to raise their hands and sing along on the chorus. The crowd further got into it during “Greta,” howling like wolves when Hermann sang the line, “There’s a pack of rabid dogs, pawing at my front door.”
One of the highlights of the first set was “Aunt Avis.” John Bell sang soulfully, but Herring’s understated playing was revelatory, as he used volume swells to great effect to create a perfect dark tone and feel for the song.
During the set break, fans had fun dancing and singing to a wide variety of tunes on the PA, including “Jump in the Line” and the last song before the band retook the stage, “Minnie the Moocher.” Bell acknowledged the fun the fans were having when he stepped up to the mic, growling, “You all sound real good; hide hidey hidey ho.”
Panic picked up on the rock theme to open the second set with the double dose of “Rock” and “Solid Rock,” the latter a Bob Dylan song from his born-again period.
The band sounded ridiculously tight, whether it was Herring playing the wah-infused opening riff to “Thought Sausage” or Schools ripping the opening bass line to “Machine.”
There was very little jamming, just extended solos, although a brief ambient jam at the start of “Pigeons” on which drummer Todd Nance pounded out a rhythm sounded like it would go into “Chainsaw City.” Perhaps the band picked up on that too, because they later encored with that song.
Founding guitarist Michael Houser, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2002, seemed present in the memories of both the band and its fans on the cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied.” The fans raised a cheer during the line, “Pretty soon I met a friend, who played guitar.” Later in the song, a stylized angel image appeared on the screen above the band. The band continued with the Houser theme by following with the Houser-penned tune “Ain’t Life Grand.”
Given the mantra in Panic fan circles of “Never miss a Sunday show,” it will be interesting to see how the band follows up such a powerhouse performance Sunday afternoon.
Holden Oversoul, Old Joe, Shut Up and Drive, North, Goodpeople, Greta -> Fishwater, Aunt Avis, Degenerate, Protein Drink/Sewing Machine
Rock -> Solid Rock, Thought Sausage -> Machine -> Barstools and Dreamers, Honky Red, Pigeons, Don’t Be Denied, Ain’t Life Grand, Saint Ex -> Chilly Water, E: Jack -> Chainsaw City