10/02/06 Dirty Dozen steals show from basic Widespread Panic

10/01/06 Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY
1: Proving Ground > Travelin' Light, C. Brown* > Crazy > Can't Get High > Dyin' Man > Mercy*, When The Clowns Come Home**, Walkin' (For Your Love)**
2: From The Cradle, It Ain't No Use, Blue Indian* > Climb To Safety > Christmas Katie*** > Drums**** > Superstition***, You Should Be Glad** > Imitation Leather Shoes
E: May Your Glass Be Filled, Sometimes

* with John Keane on pedal steel
** with John Keane on guitar
*** with Dirty Dozen Brass Band
**** with Terrence Higgins on percussion

Setlist by Everydaycompanion


Dirty Dozen steals show from basic Widespread Panic
By Walter Tunis

"My body keeps on moving," John Bell sang at the onset of Widespread Panic's evening-long jam band fest at Rupp Arena Sunday night. "But my style gets in the way."

What telling words. For the better part of 31/2 hours, the veteran Georgia band had all the tools to keep the groove going. But a few times too often, the band reflected a stage attitude that seemed to suggest its often rudimentary music was a bigger deal than it was.

The Panic is a band that likes to keep the beat simple. Sometimes, as with the opening Proving Ground, the groove abruptly accelerated and then slowed back to the band's shuffle-friendly comfort zone. A panic? More like business as usual, really.

So it went for much of the first set, with Bell and company relying mostly on the shorter, song-structured grooves of the boogie-directed Walkin' (For Your Love) and the animated barroom flavor of Blue Indian. Longer jams were saved for the second set.

At times percussionist Domingo S. Ortiz would chime in (literally) to color a tune or two, as in the way he gave the Okie-meets-Atlanta roots groove of J.J. Cale's Travelin' Light a detour through Trinidad.

And it was difficult not to imagine how pale this music would have sounded without new Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring (an alumnus of the Allman Brothers Band and The Dead) and bassist Dave Schools on the job. Herring was rightly the evening's principal soloist. But the guitarist was just as commanding when he cemented the sturdy funk groove of Mercy with Schools.

Ultimately, though, the Panic's problem seems to be its material. Too many tunes locked themselves too quickly into static rhythms that even the most inventive of instrumental solos couldn't break.

Lyrically, the music didn't fare much better. From the Cradle, for example, was dime-store paranoia stuff that stylistically veered way too close to sacred Jerry Garcia-style balladry for comfort.

Things perked up a bit in the second set when the show-opening Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the Panic for Christmas Katie and a resulting jam that took a crew of 14 onstage musicians (the entire lineups of both bands, plus steel guitarist/ producer John Keane, who sat in for much of the Panic's performance) down bluesy avenues and side roads of horn-happy R&B.

The Dirty Dozen's hourlong set was a total delight. Though born out of New Orleans tradition (it makes its bass the old-fashioned way -- with a sousaphone), the ensemble was progressive enough to address vintage funk, gospel and R&B with equal relish.

Opening with nearly 10 minutes of baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis' Use Your Brain, the band sailed off into staccato blasts of brassy soul that settled, briefly, into Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 hit If You Want Me to Stay.

But the biggest soul surprise came when the front line of Lewis, trumpeter Efrem Towns and tenor sax man Kevin Harris transformed Marvin Gaye's Right On into a fat-sounding Crescent City stroll.

This was clearly the Panic's crowd, of course. They danced and twirled madly throughout the band's lengthy sets and, despite their meager numbers (about 2,000), made the Rupp floor seem almost packed. But for sheer organic musical might, it was the Dirty Dozen that cleaned up.