Published on October 4th, 2014 | by Stratton Lawrence0
Duane Trucks Steps In for Big Nights with Widespread Panic
North Charleston Coliseum
Night One: Friday, Oct. 3
Widespread Panic kicked off their fall tour in Charleston on Friday night, performing without founding drummer Todd Nance for only the second time since the band’s formation in 1985 (Nance missed a show in April 2000 in Delaware due to illness). Any concerns that the band would sputter without their established backbone proved unwarranted, as drummer Duane Trucks aptly stepped in and held down the fort with solid, controlled style.
Trucks is no stranger to the family; he’s the son-in-law of guitarist Jimmy Herring and a bandmate of bassist Dave Schools in a roots-rock side project called Hard Working Americans.
North Charleston Coliseum staff members seemed friendlier and more engaged with patrons than at shows past, with employees sporting “We (heart) Panic Fans” buttons. A projection of that same motto was cast onto the venue’s exterior walls. Marketing manager Alan Coker reiterated during the show that he considers Widespread Panic the Coliseum’s “house band.” Perhaps it’s all an effort to keep Panic from straying (last year, they jumped ship and played two nights on Daniel Island), but it seemed appreciated by fans and the band, who clearly gave their all on the tour’s opening night.
The show started with a party, rolling out “Disco” as a giant LCD disco ball appeared behind the band. “Diner” offered Trucks his first chance to demonstrate he’d learned a more complicated song’s changes, with Schools clearly making eyes to ensure the transitions went over smoothly. Throughout the first set, songs like “Climb to Safety” and J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” seemed especially sharp — perhaps with a substitute drummer, the band was forced to practice more than usual in the weeks prior to the tour.
During the second set — which kicked off with an explosive ZZ Top doublestack of “Waitin’ on the Bus” into “Jesus Just Left Chicago” (prediction: Billy Gibbons at Lockn’ Festival 2015) — the pressure on Trucks seemed to subside. It was easy to forget he was even up there, as the band gelled into a natural flow that included a poignant “Space Wrangler” and explosive “Sleeping Man,” before easing into the familiar riffs of “Driving Song,” where a distinct, almost exaggerated attention to detail appeared again as the band showed their new member the way.
Trucks’ real initiation came during “Papa’s Home.” As the song dropped into its breakdown, the 25-year-old aced his hold steady moment, aptly doing his job and avoiding the temptation to embellish, while also keeping up as the lights went into a spiral and pushed the band around and around (a very noticeable moment where the lighting director literally dictated the course of the song).
When it came time to drop the hammer on the bass drum during his drum solo with percussionist Sunny Ortiz, however, Trucks rocked just hard enough, before Schools rejoined the stage and bailed him out with a masterfully dirty solo that teased “Ain’t No Party Like a P-Funk Party.”
After finishing up “Driving Song,” followed by “Greta,” the band reignited the party with the first of two Talking Heads covers, “Life During Wartime,” which preceded the set closing “Love Tractor.” After a long pause before the encore, they returned with a soulful “Heaven” (the second Talking Heads song), before feeding the beast once more with a big “Red Hot Mama” that rebuilt the room’s collective energy and set the tone for an exciting Saturday night to follow.
Night Two: Saturday, Oct. 4
First of all: Todd Nance, the Panic community hopes you come back soon. The band is not the same without you.
But they’re doing their best, and on Saturday night, Widespread demonstrated to Charleston that they’re more than just the house band at the Coliseum. Widespread Panic in 2014 does not sell out the venue like the latest country act (or Bruce Springsteen, Prince, or even Phish) might, but they bring an energy to the room unlike anyone else.
It’s great to hear how comfortable Jimmy Herring is with the band. After eight years, he may as well be an original member (if you’re reading this, you are probably a fan, and let’s all pour one out to Mikey). On Friday afternoon, Duane Trucks posted a thank you to Col. Bruce Hampton for making his connection with Widespread Panic, but without Jimmy’s endorsement, Trucks wouldn’t be sitting center stage for this fall tour.
Family. That’s the glue behind Widespread Panic, and Saturday was no exception. From the opening chord of “Porch Song,” everyone in the room was determined to have a good time, even through the jangly intro of “Ribs and Whiskey” that led to pure heat from Herring. A brief “Working” gave way to a four-star “Weight of the World,” before “Up All Night.”
It’s funny how new songs become old songs. “Up All Night” played out like an old favorite, with keyboardist JoJo Hermann taking lead before Herring tore the song to raucous shreds. A classic “You Got Yours” followed, with yellow spotlights bringing even the upper reaches of the Coliseum into the fold.
After a subdued but soulful “C. Brown,” the highlight of the entire weekend, “Pigeons,” closed the first set. It rocked and it rolled, and Duane Trucks demonstrated that he’s as apt a fill-in drummer as his father-in-law has been on guitar for the world’s best bands over the last two decades. “Pigeons” in North Charleston on October 4, 2014, was a keeper.
The second set kicked off at 10:20 p.m. with Taj Mahal’s “She Caught the Katy.” The old-school set list of Friday night was thrown out the window, with “Bust It Big” proving to be the set highlight. Herring threw down a heavy riff worthy of Guitar Hero mimicry. “Give” kept the energy high — (“How dare you show up on time!”), before an overall forgettable drums. Fortunately, the band chose “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” to reenter the second set’s closing stanza, delivering a swampy take on Dr. John’s staple gris-gris groover.
A relatively subdued version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lighting” proceeded “Chilly Water” to close the night, wrapping up a 93-minute set (according to PanicStream.com).
Having peaked the crowd’s energy multiple times over a big two nights, Panic encored a wistful “Wish You Were Here” before bringing the crowd right back to the race track with a driving, full force “Action Man.”
Even without Todd Nance driving the boat — and kicking off a tour after a month at home — Widespread Panic’s big weekend in Charleston sounded like a well-oiled machine, primed for the laps ahead.
Photos by Michael Crossman.
[Thanks to Stratton Lawrence for the reviews!]
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