Tonight was the long awaited double billing of Widespread Panic and the Allman Brothers. With bad weather looming, the show was moved from outdoor Riverfront Park to the Municipal Auditorium. The old barn was the perfect place for this show, if it had to be inside. The lax security allowed standing in the isles and smoking, making it seem like a show from the 90's. The sound was a little muddy but not terrible.
The Allman Brothers started the night off right. Having to wait on my big friend to meet me for his ticket, I arrived pretty late, missing some of my favorite numbers. The first full song I got was "Soul Shine", the classic feel good ballad. Other highlights were former Brother Johnny Neel and Widespread's J.B. sitting in for Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and Jack Pearson appearing on "You Don't Love Me" to close the show. The best moments came when Derek Trucks was driving the jam. His slide and guitar tone fit in with the long running style of the Brothers and the connection between he and his uncle is unmistakable. You can really see how they propel each other dynamically. Butch carried most of the drum core, with the percussion seeming unnecessary and Jaimoe basically comatose. The epic version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" whipped through peaks and valleys and really showed that Warren Haynes is the Dickey to Derek's Duane. His bland solos didn't seem to inspire as much, but his ability to nail the classic Brothers guitar lines was crucial. This generation's version of the Allmans is still going strong, even if it's only a few originals members. The younger guys add an important energy and the veterans bring the deep feeling. As long as Greg and Warren can sing, they'll be a perennial must see.
The lights went down and the heads went crazy as Widespread Panic took the stage. With the energy really strong in the audience, the band's opening song selection was a little lackluster, but by the third or fourth song, the crowd recovered and was in full Panic swing. I was interested to see Jimmy Herring on guitar for the first time. His addition to this band is a huge move, making the long jams a little more interesting. He, J.B. and Jo Jo, as well as returning visitor Johnny Neel, carried the rest of the flat-line rhythm section who seemed to be robots, never really straying too far from the script. The spastic nonsensical percussionist loved to take his solos, which he takes every show giving the rest of the band a little break. At one point the drummer even put on a drum machine and smoked a cigarette while the old guy banged and tinkered aimlessly for what seemed like an hour. It was a good substitute for a set break, leaving an opportunity for a bathroom stop and a drink. The incredible light rig added an intensity to the show that kept my interest for most of the night. It was by far my favorite part. The set closing "Chili Water" went out with a bang and the encore was brilliant, I'm sure. I'd had enough and left to beat the rush.
As someone who doesn't much care for Panic, I wonder how this show ranks with the hard core fans. There were some strong moments but other than Jimmy Herring standing up and playing interesting solos, this seemed pretty similar to the other shows I've seen. The devout spread-heads gave some insight with huge reactions to certain songs, but as with most jam bands, the true fans will cheer for just about anything.