July 14 & 15, 2008
Occasionally, Widespread Panic does something really special that draws the band and their fans closer together. Maybe a free concert in the streets (ok they haven’t done a free show in ten years;) perhaps they give away new music. Sometimes, they take the stage at a small, intimate venue.
When the band announced it would play two nights at Knoxville’s Tennessee Theater, tickets were gobbled up in an instant. In fact, due to the popular demand, a third night was added to accommodate more fans.
On night one, the band got right down to business with a punctual start time and a mean “Lil Kin” opener. John Bell seemed to be in good spirits as he walked around the stage , vibing off of his bandmates’ energy. As Panic made its way into “Pleas,” they were in full stride and the 2000 people in attendance had also found their groove.
Often times a three-night run will mean a warm-up round on night one, with the energy never really reaching the full potential. However this was not to be one of those runs. Midway through the first set the band was offering up old-school Panic and attempting to shake loose the antique fixtures with massive takes on “Gradle,” “A of D” and “Junior.”
As the first set drew to a close the band decided to really let it fly with a great rendition of “Last Straw” that segued into a blistering “Fixin’ to Die.” Ten songs deep, the first set had proven to not be a warm up. One could not help but wonder what the second set would hold.
As the band took the stage for the second set, the lead off “Stop Go” that segued into a fast and furious "Cream Puff War” put things right back on track. There was no shortage of energy the whole night, and the “Contentment Blues” and “Second Skin” that beefed up the second set were spot on.
As night one came to an end there was still one last treat in store. Occasionally the band plays the days of the week game, and since it was a Monday there was no better way to celebrate than with Neil Young’s “Last Dance.”
Tuesday the band jumped head first right back into a high-energy performance with “Old Neighborhood.” After a great “Weight of the World” the band was joined by the only guest of the two evenings, Benji Shanks on guitar for “Ophelia.”
After some typical “Jb-isms” regarding not staying up all night and saving something for the next night, he stated “we all know that is not how it works,” and then they launched into the new radio friendly hit “Up All Night."
Set two, night two and things could not have been more on point. The second set opener, “Bowlegged Woman,” delivered a heavy punch, followed by a knock out blow from a massive “Pigeons.” As if the energy was not high enough “Red Hot Mama” followed, and by the time the “Drivin” sandwich began the energy was close to blowing the roof off the joint.
Somewhere in the midst of the sandwich a “Genesis” was dropped on the masses that proved to be a highlight of the two nights of full throttle Panic. All things must come to an end, and as night two came to a close the band offered up a favorite Bloodkin tune in “Makes Sense to Me.”
Widespread Panic returned to the stage for an encore of “Dark Day Program” and ‘Conrad.”
For many there was one more night to go. Even though Honest Tune broke camp, apparently the band had more left in the tank.