Saw Widespread Panic on Thursday night (7/22) at Radio City Music Hall. I really like this band and they follow the general rules of jamband-dom...great live act, bad-to-mediocre studio albums. Their most recent disc "Dirty Side Down" is a good record, and breaks a 10 year spell of inconsistency on their non-live releases. They played 3 songs from the new disc, but unfortunately didn't play "Cotton Was King", an excellent new upbeat tune in the style of "Time Zones", another great recent song from them (on 2008's "Earth to America"). I've seen these guys 8 times now (all in NYC) and this is the first show where I felt they weren't on their "A" game. The difference in their shows (to me) is usually the setlist....and Thursday nights was not a strong one. The crowd was also much thinner than the last time these guys were here (in 08) with lots of open seats in the rear orchestra and balconies. They opened with a sleepy "Heroes" not one of the stronger songs off the "Ain't Life Grand" disc, but then went into "Pleas", an excellent song from their 1993 disc "Everyday". The rest of the show was up and down, but mostly maintained a workmanlike tone, never really reaching any highs like I've experienced at other WSP shows. Highlight for me was "Pilgrims", a great song also from "Everyday", and although it wasn't a killer performance, it's one my favorite WSP tunes, and they weren't playing many of those on Thursday . Some of their songs can tend toward jumbled noise live, and I found the songs "Imitation Leather Shoes", "Flicker", "Impossible", "Bust It Big" and "Arleen" interminable live...these are songs that aren't good on album and live they became an exercise in excess. Some of the songs just sound like an excuse for Jimmy Herring (lead guitar) to show how fast and accurate he is...he's very technically proficient but he's got no soul, and that's the problem for me with this incarnation of the band. I also don't understand the odd setlist choices for this show...it's their 1st NYC show in 2 years, and their only NYC appearance this year. Some real duds in the setlist....1st set was stronger than the 2nd set, song-wise, but there are dozens of songs I would have rather heard than most of what they played Thursday night. Guest DJ Logic was standing on the side of the stage scratching records during the always boring drums interlude, and also for a few songs in the 2nd set. I can't say that he really added anything. Hopefully I'll see/hear a better setlist and show next time. They really seemed like they were going through the motions, and I felt the same when I saw their appearance on Letterman earlier in the week. Hopefully these guys can find a way to make NYC work for them....The Beacon Theater would be a much better venue for them, Radio City is just too big. Interesting to note that the last time WSP played NYC, they played 3 nights at RCMH (not selling them out), and this time around they couldn't even sell out 1 night. They need to play in NY/NJ more often and at more fan-friendly confines. Showing up once every couple of years just doesn't cut it. And I don't think I'd see them at Radio City again.
Below is the setlist and a snippet of the drum and bass interlude with DJ Logic adding repetitive beats.
Set I: Heroes> Pleas> Imitation Leather Shoes, True To My Nature, Angels on High, Airplane> Pilgrims, Saint Ex, Protein Drink> Sewing Machine
Set II: Flicker> Diner> Stop Breakin' Down Blues, Jaded Tourist>Impossible> Drums1> Love Tractor1> Bust It Big1> Arleen1> I'm Not Alone, Solid Rock
Encore: Henry Parsons Died
1 with DJ Logic on turntables