Event Reviews

Widespread Panic

Red Rocks Amphitheater, Denver, CO • June 25-27, 1999

Continuing to build momentum as improvisational music’s most brilliant band, Widespread Panic added another memorable chapter to their story with a historic three-night run at Colorado’s breathtakingly surreal amphitheater, Red Rocks. Trying to prepare for the unpredictable, excited fans settled into the familiar setting enraptured by the Disney-like magic. With a full moon slowly passing overhead, and far-off electrical storms illuminating the sky with a dull orange hue like prearranged fireworks over the Denver skyline, the venue proved to be ideal for Widespread’s inspired jams and insightful lyrics.

Holding nothing back, the five-piece band opened the run playing “Alltime Low.” With the impeccable combination of Todd Nance on drums and Domingo Ortiz on percussion, along with Dave School’s basslines (and screams, hoots, and howls), the band laid a solid foundation from which their music could easily meander between various moods and tempos. As Michael Houser’s pristine guitar work and John Hermann’s funky keyboards led the way, the ensemble pushed towards an epic stand. And, with John Bells’ passionate vocals filling the warm Colorado air, the group left no doubt as to why fans make the annual pilgrimage to the Rocky Mountain State.

Fulfilling all expectations, the Georgia band provided plenty of surprises over the weekend. Among them was the Talking Heads tune “Heaven,” played the first night. A fitting song for the occasion, it speaks of Heaven as being a place where “the band plays our favorite song.” Another first night highlight occurred when the boys pulled “Coconuts” from their ever-growing bag of tricks. A song rarely heard live, “Coconuts” proved to be a well-deserved treat for the dedicated fans.

Of the encores, that of the second night stands out as the most memorable. Beginning with Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me,” the band made a smooth transition into their anthem of having a good time, “Porch Song.” This choice of songs worked very nicely as a pair, and the delivery was seamless.

In short, Georgia’s finest offered up another wonderful example of their unique sound, which combines deep grooves, full throttle jams, and lyrics sung with unparalleled emotion and sincerity. For all those motivated enough to make the journey, the reward proved to be the priceless weekend which certainly will not be forgotten.


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