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Widespread Panic @ FirstMerit Bank Pavilion

Widespread Panic with Tedeschi Trucks Band and Jerry Joseph
Where: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion
When: June 20th, 2014
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Patrick Clemens

Widespread Panic rocked their way through the Windy City, bringing along a stellar company of friends with the blues-rock outfit Tedeschi Trucks Band and longtime songwriting collaborator Jerry Joseph. Even the weather “cooperates” with a natural fog settling over Northerly Island prior to Widespread Panic taking the stage with a vibrant display of lights and psychedelic visuals.

Performing on stage for the early arrivals who line up at the gate, Jerry Joseph takes center stage and runs through a set of originals between a couple of contemporary covers. Though brief, the set is a treat for the dedicated fans, who chant along to Jerry Joseph’s acoustic cover of “Paper Planes.” Credit must be given to Jerry for rocking out on stage solo, even admitting to being unusually nervous. Given the company of roots-inspired musicians to follow him, Jerry’s performance is perhaps the most grounded in tradition. With only an acoustic guitar and his voice, Jerry brings life with a special performance fans and songwriters alike will enjoy. 

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks take the stage in a big way. The Tedeschi Trucks Band consists of 11 talented and versatile musicians. Keyboardist Kofi Burbridge starts the set with a flute solo as the band warms up on the opening number “Idle Wind.” By the third song, the band is feeling the groove and letting the audience revel in it, with Susan Tedeschi growling her way through “Do I Look Worried.” The song is finely crafted, leaving space for the harmonies and brass to breathe when they need to without encroaching on Susan’s vocals. Their collective sound of horns and blues rock begs comparisons to the Muscle Shoals style, finding Derek Trucks' solos to be an electrifying addition.

Throughout the set list, the various band members come in when they’re needed, enjoying a solo or two, and grooving on stage in style in between parts. Maurice Brown rips into a couple of solos on trumpet, stealing the show during “Part Of Me,” along with trombone player Saunders Sermons, lending his vocal pipes for a change. The band continues to feel the moment from one song to the next. Among the extended jams are placed several more gems in songwriting: “Midnight In Harlem,” a lovely, organ infused composition penned by harmony vocalist Mike Mattison, and “Bound For Glory,” an upbeat crowd pleaser with a killer chorus. Perhaps what makes Tedeschi Trucks so fun and memorable to watch is not just the talent and craft each musician brings to his/her instrument, but the belief in what they do on stage, visible to anyone present. Aware of the history and themes that enrich blues and soul music, Tedeschi Trucks never stray too far from their roots, carrying on traditions with a passion in their performances that should not be missed.

As if the opening two acts were not enough, Widespread Panic took the stage with a stellar light show and rip-roaring music blasting through the well-timed Windy City fog. Their set is tight   really tight. From John Bell’s superb anything-but-subtle vocals to Domingo S. Ortiz’s percussion and Jimmy Herring’s jaw dropping solos, Widespread Panic does not disappoint as they play through a crowd-pleasing selection from their 20+ year old catalog. “Hope in a Hopeless World” captures the magic of well arranged music, fueled by John “JoJo” Hermann on organ, balanced with startling lyrics. Other songs from the night’s set include “Rebirtha,” “Sleeping Man,” and “Shut Up And Drive.” The band leaves time for some good ol’ rock n’ roll with “Red Beans,” a funny song to shake and dance to, and easily one of my favorites from the night.  

Jerry Joseph, Derek Trucks, and Susan Tedeschi return to the stage with Widespread Panic during the evening. Jerry Joseph joins John Bell on vocals for an extended “Chainsaw City.” The moment from the night comes when Susan Tedeschi and John Bell duet on Dan Penn’s and Chips Moman’s “Dark End Of The Street,” paying tribute to their Muscle Shoals influences. The show was absolutely mesmerizing and a thrilling time from start to finish, for die hard Panic fans to the casual rock enthusiast. Catch these bands on tour as soon as you can!

Purchase Tedeschi Trucks Band's latest album, Made Up Mind, right here on iTunes!

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