By Erik Badia
There is something to be said for a band that has lasted over two decades and has not repeated a set list in that time period — especially considering that Widespread Panic tours non-stop. While lumped in with other “jam bands” such as The String Cheese Incident, Moe., Bob Weir & Ratdog, etc, Widespread Panic is truly unique. With a mix of funk rock, southern rock, and blues, this band stands out from the crowd and performs shows that are unparalleled.
The band may now be middle-aged, but it seems as though the majority of followers that come out to see them are in their twenties and thirties. That throng of followers never sat down at Radio City Music Hall, dancing and enjoying the show to its fullest. While the music served to put fans in a trance of sorts, it was aided by a spectacular light show projected onto the grand ceiling of, giving it the appearance of a multi-colored zeppelin.
The band started off strong and continued to jam throughout the night with five-plus minute, winding solos by the recently acquired Jimmy Herring and longtime frontman John Bell. The two work together so well that you’d believe they had been playing together since the inception of the band. These long and unabbreviated jams are the trademark of the band, and they make the music almost seem like it is a living, breathing entity. Dave Schools was stellar as he plucked and slapped his bass with unending energy.
Keyboardist John Hermann really rounds out the sound of the band and adds a funky rhythm with notes covering the entire scale. Due to a family crisis, percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz was not present for the show because of a family crisis. In spite of this, Widespread Panic still sounded fluid and tight. “Don’t Wanna Lose You” was a standout for the first set, but perhaps the best performance of the evening came late in the second set in the form of a wild, uncut version of “Space Wrangler.”