"Pure sickness," as Daddy would say. After two nights at historic Radio City Music Hall, the boys were finally ready to let loose as Jimmy Herring solidified his place among the most dedicated Widespread Panic fans. I don't think George McConnell ever got an iota of support compared to the outpour of enthusiasm that the fans in the crowd gave Herring last night. And he deserved it.
When you get a chance to hear the show, listen to Greta. High energy. The crowd went berserk. And Herring ripped the shit out of that jam. The last night of their three show run might have been their best performance as they cranked out fan favorites Space Wrangler, One Arm Steve, Greta, Driving Song, and Chilly Water. Not to mention an old school tune in Walkin and a couple of tunes off of their latest album and a cover of Dr. John's I Walk On Guilded Splinters.
9.16.06 Radio City Music Hall, New York, NYBruce and I arrived early. I did more pre-show drinking and got to my floor seat around 8pm. We were in the first section to the left of the sound board. We had a good area with the exception of the nazi-like presence of the security guards. I saw them bust at least 30 people for smoking. They'd walk down the long aisle and five minutes later they were pushing someone out. One older hippie got caught up in their sting as he puffed down on a one hitter. I told Bruce to keep an eye out for the suits. They actually made it easy because when they'd be leaving the floor to escort someone out, that allowed you a couple of minutes to quickly smoke.
Set 1: Space Wrangler > Walkin, Can't Get High, One Arm Steve > Christmas Katie > Thought Sausage, Pickin Up The Pieces, Ribs & Whiskey > Stop Breakin Down
Set 2: Holden Oversoul > Travelin Man > Aunt Avis > Second Skin > Greta > Driving Song > Drums > Guilded Splinters > Driving Song > Contentment Blues > Chilly Water
Encore: Let's Get This Show on the Road, None of Us Are Free
Radio City Music Hall has some of the best acoustics out of any venue I've seen a concert in... and I've seen well over a thousand concerts over the last 15 years. None of the venues compare to RCMH. Some of the best shows I've seen included Phish and Beck at RCMH and you can add Widespread Panic to that list.
First set started out with a one-two punch of Space Wrangler > Walkin. I got immediate flashbacks of my introduction to Widespread Panic when I lived in Atlanta for four years during college. Those were the Panic songs I first listened to over 15 years ago while I smoked cheaped Mexican weed out of three foot bongs and drank too much Jim Beam. I might have saved those epic tunes to close the set, but the boys wanted to get the show started with a couple of heavy hitters and crowd favorites.
The Saturday night crowd was much more rowdy than the two prior nights. It was also the most crowded of all three shows. Everyone was ready to party and the boys did not disappoint. Beginning a show with Space Wrangler reminded of when Phish opened up the 12.11.99 Philly show with Harry Hood then ripped into Mike's > Simple > Weekapaug. What a sick show! You don't expect a band to begin a concert with a power song like Space Wrangler. A rare treat.
The highlight of the first set was the One Arm Steve > Christmas Katie > Thought Sausage sandwich. Bruce dug One Arm Steve which is one of my favorite Panic tunes. Christmas Katie kicked my ass and I love the heavy metal funk of Thought Sausage. Dave Schools picked it up and Todd kept wailing away on drums.
Ribs & Whiskey has become one of my favorite songs. The band reintroduced it during 2003 and it has slowly become a staple. I particularly dug the funky version at Vegoose and I also caught a juicy one this summer at Red Rocks. Even the lyrics are a return to their good old boy southern rock roots... "Ribs and whiskey making my body feel tight."
I could think of three other Panic songs I wanted to hear besides Holden Oversoul > Travelin Man > Aunt Avis. But that's what they opened with and I was content. I love it when a band plays songs I might not have picked or perhaps didn't want to hear, but they win me over with a hot version.
Second Skin > Greta > Driving Song was the highlight of the second set. or some reason the first 1/3 of Second Skin still bothers me, but I freakin' dig the last 2/3 of the song. I cannot explain that. Like I said before Greta was the highlight of the night and the the show run. JoJo and Herring were the MVPs of Greta. And Driving Song is a classic that makes me miss Mikey. I forgot the name of that Panic DVD I saw a few years ago... but Mikey and JB played an acoustic version of Driving Song as they two sat on their porch in Georgia trading licks.
The drums jam featured six or seven musicians on all sorts of percussion, banging away like madmen. Bruce is a drummer and dug that ten minute span of the show. They pulled out of drums with Guilded Splinters. That's the dark side of Panic that I miss. They finished the rest of Driving Song and closed the set with a heavily anticipated Chilly Water. No matter how many times I hear Chilly Water, it still makes me smile and gives me goosebumps. Unlike at the Wiltern in LA, I didn't get doused with water or a beer during the chorus.
The encore was a tad questionable. I would have dug a Conrad or Big Whooly or Barstools or how about a Cream Puff War? The first encore song was slow and mellow and they seem to play None of Us Are Free at almost every series of shows I've been to recently.
The third night at RCMH featured more extended jams with Jimmy Herring finding his way and making his own mark during classic songs such as Greta and Chilly Water. No one questioned if he could handle himself onstage. The guy can play guitar. Panic fans everywhere wondered if he would be the bridge to the old days of Panic. They're not there yet but give Herring and the boys some time to get used to one another. In a couple of months, they're going to be back on track for the first time since Mikey Houser died.
I'm pumped to see the boys in Las Vegas next month and I'm even considering trying to see them one or two more times before then!