Photo Credit: Joshua Timmermans
Last night, Widespread Panic concluded their Fox Theatre shows in Atlanta. Saturday’s finale played with thematic elements synonymous with what would have been a late-December holiday show, giving the audience a relatively authentic New Year’s experience, despite the mid-August date. In addition to deliberately designing the night to mimic the annual celebratory occurrence, Widespread Panic sprinkled in added memories by welcoming old friend and Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit co-founder Matt Mundy, who joined the band during the latter half of the first set on mandolin, for the first time since 1993.
To kick off the final night of their run at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, Widespread Panic delivered a semi-stripped-down set with frontman John Bell trading electric for acoustic for the night’s first eight songs, which began with “Space Wrangler.” Instead of dramatized visual components, the band went with minimal lighting production and no backdrop as they dipped into the archives on the night’s second number, “Airplane.” The set continued with another taste of Ain’t Life Grand on “Jack” before they jumped to 1996’s Bombs & Butterflies repertoire on “Gradle.”
A special moment occurred next when Mundy stepped out on stage to join Panic for the second half of the night’s initial music set, which began with a run-through of The Dillards’ “There Is A Time.” “Picking Up the Pieces” was performed next before the ensemble, and their guest landed on the set’s final songs, two covers. The first was a take on Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die,” which was capped by a set ending rendition of Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied.” Last night’s sit-in represented the first time Mundy had played on stage with the group after leaving in the ‘90s. (Mundy and current Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring played together in the classic version of ARU, though the mandolin player did not participate in the group’s reunion runs and has largely avoided playing in an electric setting in recent years.)
The night’s second half presented memorable takes on rarities as they dug into infrequently played numbers and fan favorites. Set two got underway with “Bust It Big,” which ran into “Surprise Valley.” The latter was coupled with a drum solo before the band came out of the epic rhythmic beat on “Bear’s Gone Fishing,” a number that gave way to “Give.” Next, Widespread Panic pulled out “Pilgrims” and “Halloween Face” before dabbling with Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain.” Finally, “Chilly Water” arrived before a three-song segue: “Contentment Blues” into “Big Wooly Mammoth” and “Gimme.”
Another memorable moment occurred when the band landed on a cover of Jerry Garcia’s “Bird Song,” performed for the first time since the late-’80’s when Widespread Panic last played the number on July 25, 1988, at The Boardwalk in Greenville, S.C. Keeping with the fowl theme, they ran through “Pigeons” to conclude the second set. The band’s encore picked up with a continuation of bird-inspired lyrics on a live debut of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire.” The night’s final songs included “Travelin’ Man” into “The Walker.” Then, they ran through BloodKin’s “Trashy” before landing on “Weight of the World” and a night-ending take on Skip James’ “I’m So Glad.”
After this weekend’s festivities, Widespread Panic will take a much-deserved break from the stage before returning for a string of shows, beginning on Aug. 26 at Oxbow RiverStage in Napa, Calif. Tickets for the upcoming three-night run in The Golden State are on sale and can be purchased here.
Scroll down to view last night’s complete setlist.
Fox Theatre – Atlanta
Aug. 13, 2022
Set I: Space Wrangler, Airplane, Jack, Gradle, There Is Time*&, Pickin’ Up the Pieces&, Fixin’ to Die&^, Don’t Be Denied%&
Set II: Bust It Big > Surprise Valley > Bear’s Gone Fishing > Give, Pilgrims, Halloween Face, Maggot Brain$ > Chilly Water, Contentment Blues > Big Wooly Mammoth > Gimme > Bird Song#, Pigeons
Enc.: Bird On A Wire, Travelin’ Man > The Waker, Trashy!, Weight of the World > I’m So Good~
* The Dillards cover
& Matt Mundy on mandolin
^ Bukka White cover
% Neil Young cover
$ Funkadelic cover
# Jerry Garcia cover, bust out–first time played since 1988
@ Leonard Cohen cover, live debut
! BloodKin cover
~ Skip James cover
Setlist via PanicStream.com.