Photos And Review | Widespread Panic & Tedeschi Trucks | Chicago

Words & Images by: Charles Izenstark

Tedeschi Trucks Band & Widespread Panic :: 6.20.14 :: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island :: Chicago, IL

On an evening that Chicago heroes Umphrey’s McGee were in the middle of three night run at London’s Brooklyn Bowl, a Londonesque fog embraced their hometown and provided an ethereal backdrop for the evening’s double bill of the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Widespread Panic. While the fog deprived the audience of their customary view of Chicago’s magnificent lakefront skyline, which is the trademark of the lakeside Northerly Island venue, it did create an intimate atmosphere that accentuated the music.

The evening began with a joyous set from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, who are touring in support of their excellent album, Made Up Mind. Susan and Derek have surrounded themselves with a large, talented ensemble that artfully mixes rock and blues with heavy doses of gospel and Memphis soul in an attempt to recreate the legendary Stax era travelling roadshows with Derek more than ably filling Steve Cropper’s role as the silent guitar hero and Susan handling the show-stopping vocals. The first true highlight of the evening was the band’s delicious take on the Derek and the Dominos classic “Keep On Growing,” a tune that Trucks used to remind everyone of Duane Allman’s pivotal role in that legendary band and assert his rightful claim to Skydog’s slide legacy.

While the band does rely on more than a few covers (with “Eleanor Rigby” and “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” also included in the setlist), it is the diversity of the band’s original material that makes their live show truly special. This was clearly evidenced by their set-ending combination of “Bound For Glory” and “The Storm.” Some might find the juxtaposition of soul-tinged gospel and full-throttle rock and roll as evidence that the band lacks a unified musical direction, but it is actually quite the opposite. Rather than being restricted to a single genre this band focuses on their own strengths, most specifically their harmonies (both vocal and instrumental), which allows them to adapt deftly to the requirements of any specific song.

As the fog grew denser, Panic took the stage for a set that took a while to build up any real momentum. While the crowd responded well to Panic staples “Fishwater,” “Hope in a Hopeless World” and “Blue Indian,” it wasn’t until keyboardist JoJo Hermann launched into the raucous boogie-woogie intro to “Red Beans” that the party exploded to life. Trading fierce licks with guitarist Jimmy Herring, the Hermann-led party would have been just as welcome of the shores of Lake Pontchartrain as it was at the beaches of Lake Michigan. The intensity continued as Jerry Joseph joined the crew and led them through a twangy take on his own “Light Is Like Water” that transitioned into an epic version of the Joseph-penned “Chainsaw City.”

The ensuing drum solo was exceptionally brief and lasted only long enough as was needed for the gaggle of roadies and techs to unplug Joseph and plug in both Trucks and Tedeschi for some set-ending sweetness. With everyone in tune, John Bell and Tedeschi shared the vocals for a gorgeous version of the soul ballad “Dark End Of The Street,” a tune that Panic had not played in 450 shows. The soul, this time from the blue-eyed school, continued with a dirty, raging take on the Van Morrison classic “I’ve Been Working” that saw Trucks put down his slide to contribute an incendiary solo which dissolved into him trading vicious licks with Herring before the band remembered that they were playing in Chicago, the city that claims the “blues electric” as its own invention. And with the flip of a switch, Schools dropped into a groove straight from page six of the Willie Dixon songbook of groovy basslines and launched a torrential “Stop Breaking Down Blues” that saw Trucks return the Coricidin bottle to his finger to give glassy accent to Bell’s wailing vocal.

[Tedeschi & Trucks Guest With Panic -Shot by Markusss427]

Tedeschi’s scorching solo had that perfect raw edge reminiscent of the west side pioneers who first “plugged in” their guitars so they could be heard over the roar of the passing elevated trains. Trucks’ slide response was equally incendiary and provided the final highlight of the evening. The band encored with “Action Man” that had to be anticlimactic due both to its coming in the wake of the torrent of blues and to its brevity caused by the looming hard curfew. But as the crowd filed out into the foggy night their satisfaction was palpable and there were more than a few fans planning on reconvening at the end of summer in southern Illinois when Panic co-headlines the inaugural Phases of the Moon Festival.

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