Ric Flair Introduces Widespread Panic On New Year’s Eve In Atlanta

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Widespread Panic concluded their New Year’s Run at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Tuesday with a New Year’s Eve show featuring a handful of bust outs, guest appearances from old friend John Keane and an introduction by legendary wrestler Ric Flair. The sextet kicked off the action with a set featuring songs written by the late Vic Chesnutt in a throwback to their 2001 New Year’s Eve concert, which made JamBase’s list of 20 Memorable NYE Shows.

Ric “Nature Boy” Flair, a 21-time world champion who was twice inducted into the WWE’s Hall Of Fame but is best known for his tenure in the NWA/WCW emerged at the start of the show to give a rousing introduction of Widespread Panic. Flair came out to the tune of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” aka “2001,” as he did during his wrestling career. Panic then began their tribute to Chesnutt and their collaboration known as brute. with the debut of “Good Morning Mr. Hard On” from the latter’s Nine High A Pallet LP. The sextet then tore through “Blight,” a Vic-penned number that Panic performs regularly. Keane was on hand to contribute guitar, vocals and pedal steel for most of the opening frame.

Ric Flair Introduction, Good Morning Mr. Hard On Captured by Mr. TopDogger

John Keane’s history with Widespread Panic dates back to the late-1980s and includes production work and dozens of sit-ins including a run in 2006 following George McConnell’s dismissal from the band. The Athens-based producer/musician hadn’t performed with Panic in over three years, the longest Keane had ever gone without appearing with the six-piece since his first-known guest spot in 1988. “Blight” was followed by a cover of Chesnutt’s “Degenerate” marking the band’s first performance of the tune since February 10, 2016. Next up was “Morally Challenged” which was last played by Panic on December 31, 2001 – a span of 1,139 shows and “This Cruel Thing.” The latter was also performed last on February 10, 2016. Chesnutt’s “Protein Drink/Sewing Machine” and “Expiration Day” brought the frame to a close.

Widespread Panic focused on beloved favorites for their second set at the Fox last night. First up was the pairing of “Disco” and “Pigeons” before “Little Lilly” bled into “Party At Your Mama’s House.” A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” was followed by “Holden Oversoul” and an expansive 16+ minute “Honky Red.” Guitarist John Bell then led his mates through “Blue Indian” before keyboardist JoJo Hermann had a turn in the spotlight for a romp through “Blackout Blues.”

After a second intermission, longtime Panic crew member Steve Lopez led a countdown to end 2019 before a recording of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out. Widespread Panic then started their 2020 with a cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light,” which marked the band’s first version of the song since April 25, 2016. Members of Panic were on hand at the Fox in 2017 when Col. Bruce Hampton passed away after suffering a heart attack during a performance of “Love Light” that was the last song of a concert celebrating the legendary musician’s 70th birthday. The set continued with the powerhouse sequence of Funkadelic’s “Ride Me High” into J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” into the original “Surprise Valley.” The latter included a “Drums” segment and cover of “I’m So Glad” within. “Gimme” followed along with the pairing of “Imitation Leather Shoes” and “Flat Foot Flewzy.” WSP said farewell with a “Pilgrims” that led into a jam on “I Trusted You” in reference to the band’s Halloween show and the classic “Porch Song.” Keane was on hand for the “I Trusted You” jam and “Porch Song.” An audience recording of the show by Z-Man is available via PanicStream.

Turn On Your Love Light Captured by Mr. TopDogger

Setlist (via PanicStream)

Set One: Good Morning Mr. Hard On*, Blight*, Degenerate**, Morally Challenged**, This Cruel Thing**, Protein Drink* / Sewing Machine*, Expiration Day (49 mins)

Set Two: Disco, Pigeons, Little Lilly > Party At Your Mama’s House, Stop Breakin’ Down Blues, Holden Oversoul, Honky Red > Jam* > Blue Indian* > Blackout Blues (88 mins)

Set Three: Turn On Your Love Light**, Red Hot Mama > Ride Me High > Surprise Valley > I’m So Glad > Drums > Surprise Valley, Gimme, Imitation Leather Shoes > Flat Foot Flewzy (75 mins)

Encore: Pilgrims > I Trusted You*** tease > Porch Song*** (17 mins)

  • * w/ John Keane on pedal steel
  • ** w/ JB on acoustic guitar; John Keane on acoustic guitar & vocals
  • *** w/ John Keane on electric guitar & vocals
  • – Band intro by Ric Flair ‘The Nature Boy’
  • – JB seated first set
  • – ‘Good Morning Mr. Hard On’ (brute.) FTP as Widespread Panic
  • – ‘Morally Challenged’ LTP 12/31/01 Atlanta (1,139 shows)
  • – ‘This Cruel Thing’ LTP 2/10/16 Athens (182 shows)
  • – ‘Turn On Your Love Light’ LTP 4/25/16 Knoxville (161 shows)