Richmond News Gives Good Review


Widespread Panic ignites Landmark

For jam-band fans, time marches on in the post-Dead, post-Phish world. As new players appear with plans to get onstage and take off for parts unknown, a few longtimers continue to ascend in the hearts of concertgoers.

Widespread Panic falls into the latter category. Like Phish, its record sales have been respectable if not phenomenal. Since its name was made on the stage, sales mattered little in sustaining a 20-plus-year career that has enabled the band to make a living bringing studio songs to an audience.

After getting off to something of a comfortable start with "From the Cradle" at Tuesday night's Landmark show, percussionist Domingo Ortiz lit up the crowd with a lively solo at the start of "Fishwater" and threw the show into gear. With the song reaching a series of peaks before slamming shut, the sell-out crowd reacted as if the night might end at any second.
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Speaking of the crowd, when was the last time you remember seeing everyone on every balcony level of a theater standing -- even 20 minutes into a show?

Widespread Panic deserves credit for developing songs that can carry an audience -- be they new to the band or longtime travelers -- over the course of three hours. For the Landmark show, the band wended its way through many of its studio albums, digging back as far as "Love Tractor" from 1991's "Widespread Panic."

New guitarist Jimmy Herring deserves a nod for injecting the two sets with a little extra fire. Playing off the rhythm anchor of bassist Dave Schools and drummer Todd Nance, Herring tore off a number of lightning-bolt solos, as on a funky "Angels on High."

With solos kept to a reasonable length, the weight of the performance rested on the strength of the songs, as these guys aren't exactly jumping beans onstage. The band did take the time to stretch out, but compared to the considerably looser approach of many of its peers, the solid structure of this show's offerings seemed economical.

As with the high-energy "Give" from 2001's "Don't Tell the Band," Widespread Panic played like a rock band in no particular hurry to bring a good thing to an end. And the audience, largely, chose to go along for the ride.