7/27/06 - Nokia Theatre, TX show review

Widespread Panic knows how to make a good jam

GRAND PRAIRIE - Well-traveled (and well-loved) jam band Widespread Panic reunited with its Texas fan base Wednesday night at Nokia Theatre, and it became a mutual admiration society meeting with amps.

It is hard to imagine a performance, on the tour's only stop in the Lone Star State, where the loving bond between players and patrons could be more palpable.

Loping in over Dave Schools' thumping bass lines on Thought Sausage, the Athens, Ga., eight-piece band powered its way seamlessly through a four-hour show that never even paused to catch a breath.

Led by guitarist-vocalist John Bell, the band offered more than 20 cuts from its vast catalog, including Bust It Big, Stop-Go, Blackout Blues and Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi). There was not much emphasis on the band's latest CD, Earth to America, although Time Zones, When the Clowns Come Home and, in an encore, May Your Glass Be Filled got some attention.

But whether old or new, nearly all the numbers featured rambling, whining guitar leads that recalled another day (remember wah-wah pedals?), ran on for 10 minutes or more and, as often as not, bled into the next song without a break.

Performing for an audience of 3,000 that was dominated by what might be described as a joint alliance between hippies of every age and (in greater numbers) young male party animals, the group made good on its reputation as practitioners of free-form, loosely formatted but always driving rock that reflects a rainbow of sources. Isn't that an Allman Brothers guitar lick? Isn't that a Santana rhythm? And doesn't this whole thing feel like a Grateful Dead show?

But while everything Widespread does has a slightly familiar ring to it, the band somehow manages to stir this pot of influences in such a way that the resulting stew has a unique flavor.

And it was a joy to see a show that was all about the music. There were no projections, no fancy sets and no explosions, and the band never said a word to the audience. Ordinarily, that would come across as snobbish aloofness. But this band and its fans are like a couple who are so much in love that words are superfluous. Widespread Panic let its guitars do all the talking -- and they were never at a loss for words.


07/26/06 Nokia Theatre, Grand Prairie, TX
1: Thought Sausage, Time Zones, Thin Air > Bust it Big > Who Do You Belong To?, Casa Del Grillo, Stop-Go > Diner > Blackout Blues
2: Pilgrims > Coconut, Down, When the Clowns Come Home > 1 x 1 > Christmas Katie > Drums > Machine* > Barstools*, The Take Out* > Porch Song*
E: May Your Glass Be Filled, One Armed Steve

entire show with John Keane on Guitar and Pedal Steel
* with Sam Holt on Guitar

setlist from Everydaycompanion.com