Jimmy Herring takes Panic to par in Atlanta

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Widespread Panic
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park
Alpharetta, GA
September 24, 2010

While the omission of Alpharetta from Widespread Panic front man John ‘JB’ Bell’s audience greeting of "Good evenin’ Atlanta!" could have just as easily been a slip of the tongue as a slight to suburban sprawl, it was immediately evident upon arrival at the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre that – click your heels now, Dororthy – we weren’t in Atlanta anymore.

imr_2561.jpgDespite the inconvenience in distance and traffic congestion for inside-the-perimeter dwellers, this particular embrace of white flight was a good move. The venue was great in that it offered  excellent acoustics for a large outdoor shed, accommodating and ample vending, good sight lines from every vantage point, trip friendly trees, a welcoming staff, and plenty of room to boogie.

Many WSP fans have gushed about this home state run of shows as being the cement for guitarist Jimmy Herring’s presence in the band’s sound, flow and energy. His contributions on Panic’s latest studio release, Dirty Side Down, were instrumental in propelling the band’s 11th release to their highest ever Billboard chart debut.

In the opening number, "Pleas," Herring’s meandering maze of a solo kicked off the night with expert precision. "Pleas" moved into a cover staple, Buffalo Springfield’s rocking "Mr. Soul," which led to Jimmy, his time carefully measured and deliberate in tone, being Jimmy in a decidedly non-Jimmy jam.

The new album’s namesake came next, followed by another new track, "Shut Up and Drive," which bounced with a catchy riff over solid rhythms. John "JoJo" Hermann worked up his keys to push the band into "Tie Your Shoes," adding his own layers to the ooze pouring out of the bass of Dave Schools, who was simply a monster of rock all weekend. Yet, as perfect as this moment was, when all six members suddenly hit their mark – the sinister six-headed hydra coiled and ready to strike – the lights proved to be a bit much, overwhelming and distracting as some cheesy tie-dye effects appeared on the screens and seizure-inducing flashes of white, red and yellow twirled above the crowd. 

Kicking the pace up a notch just before the "love your girl" phrase in "Tie Your Shoes," Herring turned to face Schools, two unworldly talents squaring off in a duel of melody and rhythm that would repeat itself throughout the weekend. After "TYS," Herring once again took control in the "Take-Off Jam" that derived from "Airplane" to set up a nice flow of non-stop music through the remainder of the set, which was highlighted by JoJo’s haunting keys accenting "Aunt Avis" and Schools’ thumping intro to "Junior."

imr_2683.jpgA fiery "Lil’ Kin" kicked off the second set. Too much guitar overrode the typical JoJo funk that opens "Bust It Big," whose rollicking ragtime led into "St. Ex," a new number delivered with urgency. JB’s vocals were howling above the music before a thunderous climax mellowed down easy into the instrumental "Party at Your Mama’s House" which came complete with a "Stop Breakin’ Down" tease tossed in for good measure. 

"PAYMH" would eventually melt into the country twang of "Ribs and Whiskey" before a out-of-nowhere cover of Black Sabbath’s "Fairies Wear Boots" kicked off a string of successive Panic staples without a single pause in the action until the end. Jerry Joseph’s ‘fuck it, I’m out of here’ number, "North," would close the set. This rocker that has long been in Panic’s rotation was included on the new album and was delivered in blistering fashion on this night in Alpharetta, showing the band as full owners of the tune.

The encore started with "This Part of Town." Bell was in full command of soul-mate/late band-mate Michael Houser’s weary bliss that informs the song, despite appearing disturbingly clean-shaven in well-pressed fashion. "TPOT" was followed by "Henry Parson Died," an anthem that was perfect for a Peach State show, that was supplemented with an extra crunch courtesy of Herring during the "What’s everybody gonna say / What’s everybody gonna do" crescendo.

Considering that, by all accounts, Panic’s Thursday night Tunes for Tots benefit concert in Midtown was a real wad-shooting barn-burner, it’s no surprise that this show lacked cohesion and fire. Still the show did pack a concrete set list and Herring’s refined shredding created a solid, though far from great, show. 

Set I
 Pleas > Mr. Soul, Dirty Side Down, Shut up and Drive > Tie Your Shoes, Airplane > Take-Off Jam > Aunt Avis > Goin’ Out West > Junior
Set II
Lil’ Kin > Bust It Big > Saint Ex > Party at Your Mama’s House > Ribs And Whiskey, Fairies Wear Boots > Impossible > Bass And Drums > Drum Solo > Jam > Surprise Valley >  Drums > Surprise Valley > All Time Low > North

Encore:
This Part Of Town > Henry Parsons Died

Our good friends over at Hittin’ the Note have Frank and Ian’s coverage of night two of Widespread’s weekend Atlanta run. Check it out here

Click the thumbnail for more of Ian Rawn’s shots from The show!

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