Asheville Civic Center
Asheville, North Carolina
October 31, 2007
Widespread Panic and Halloween are synonymous with freak occurrences. They always greet the occasion with something unique, which at times leads to something monumental. This year Asheville was the scene, and it turned out to be an enormous evening.
From the opening notes of Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to my Nightmare,” it was apparent the band meant business, and by the time they made it throught “Chilly Water,” bassist Dave Schools could barely contain himself.
The swelling civic center appeared magical, as if in another world entirely. During "Chilly," cold drops of water from the customarily-thrown bottles at lyrically appropriate moments cascaded over the crowd, catching an array of color and gleaming like falling crystals. When paired with the stones used to decorate the stage, it created a magnificent setting.
The first set moved along nicely – it was heavy on long-time favorites like “Ribs and Whiskey,” “All Time Low,” and “Hatfield.”
One of the night’s highlights though was the “Machine > Barstools” pairing. There was nothing unique about the order of the two songs as that was routine, but they are two of the more exciting songs in the Widespread Panic cannon, and the sold-out building fed off the energy.
The moment that the evening became monumental took place as the second set began. Was it really possible that the band was playing “Enter Sandman?”
Indeed they were, and it was spot on. They flawlessly executed the heavy-hitting Metallica favorite, then fell right into a jammed out “Fishwater.”
The band’s obsessive fans know that John Bell flubs a lyric from time to time – often not so much flubbing them as altering the words to suit his frame of mind. However on “Jack,” the soulful lead singer simply stumbled thru the first verse, looped back around to start over, and then finished up strong before getting to another of the notorious break-out covers that Panic Halloween is famous for.
The band would take on The Who’s “Slip Kid” next, and then segued into percussionist Sonny Ortiz and drummer Todd Nance’s “drums” segment of the show.
“Driving Song” wraps so nicely around so many other songs, and one of the “sandwiches” that fits like a glove is “Driving > Time is Free > Driving.” If that was not known before this evening, it is now.
The covers the band chose for the evening were fantastic, and the original material offered a great array of what the band has accomplished over the years. However, the encore may well describe the band’s attitude toward all that they have been through. Panic started with Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and closed the night with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave.”
When the night came to a close, one thing was evident – it was near perfect evening in one of the most enjoyable cities in the country. Mountain air, Widespread Panic, and trick or treat. What could be better?