Story and Photos by Matt SchwenkeDo not worry. Widespread Panic are touring again and they are doing just fine. Playing to an animated crowd that twirled with dreads and summer dresses, the Eagles Ballroom pulsed with fans of all ages creating some new ballroom dance.
Widespread, who have been perfecting their craft since the mid 80's, are like the Portobella Philly that I always order at Nessun Dorma; I know it will be satisfying, but some excitement is lost in not trying something new on the menu. With this in mind, I waited patiently with high expectations as the band tentatively opened with versions of "Proving Ground" and "Dyin' Man" that received raucous applause; However, It wasn't until they threw in some of their classics like "Holden Oversoul" and "Space Wrangler" that I remembered why I like this dish so much.
Pulling a handful of tunes from Space Wrangler was the perfect wine to go with the meal-- this stock of the southern rock has aged quite well. To add to it, guitarist George McConnell's slide work, Domingo S. Ortiz's percussion session, and the band's mid-jam tease of Beck's "Two Turntables" were like a new type of olive or tomato in the salad. Now satisfied that I had again ordered the same dish, keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann and guitarist John Bell showed off their cooking skills with their playing and singing in "Tortured Artist," "Little Lilly" and "Fixin' To Die." As the bread and butter, drummer Todd Nance and bassist Dave Schools were as solid as ever providing the platform for the other musicians to take off from.
While the presentation (the light show) was something to marvel at or maybe just stare at, it was Widespread's consistent energy and performing that fueled the sweaty masses and heated up the ballroom. Fittingly, Widespread ended their second set with "Chilly Water" before coming back out for a two-song encore.}
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