This past weekend, Widespread Panic rolled into northern Manhattan — Washington Heights to be exact — for two shows at the United Palace.
Panic weekend in NYC is always one of the highlights of the concert calendar, and I had been really looking forward to these dates. The shows at Radio City on their last visit to NYC were missing something. Sunny was with his family mourning the loss of his father and Todd Nance was left to hold down the percussion. There were some major holes in their sound that only Sunny could fill. With the full-band back for a two-night stand, I was ready for some prime Panic.
Friday night’s not-quite-sold-out show started strong right out of the gate, with “Holden Oversoul.” From there didn’t let up. “Climb to Safety,” and “Sleeping Man” were standouts and the “Love Tractor” that closed the set was fantastic.
The second set started with “Space Wrangler,” which, more than any other Panic tune, takes me back to the early days. There’s always a moment when I can picture Mikey Houser, seated to JB’s right, long hair obscuring his face. That song is still his, as far as I’m concerned.
There was some choice music in the first half of the set, with a great “Jack,” one of Panic’s best songs. Near the end of the drum solo, an unmistakable profile could be seen heading to the stage – Warren Haynes.
Warren finished off the set with the band, adding his distinctive tone and style to “Surprise Valley” and two other songs. Watching him and Jimmy Herring play off each other was just incredible. After this, the two-song encore finished up the night on a warm note.
HOLDEN OVERSOUL, BETTER OFF, CLIMB TO SAFETY, PAPA JOHNNY ROAD, SLEEPING MAN, SLEEPY MONKEY, FREE SOMEHOW, PLEAS>LOVE TRACTOR.
SPACE WRANGLER, RADIO CHILD, JACK, WONDERIN’>SECOND SKIN>DRUMS>*SURPRISE VALLEY>*PROTEiN DRINK,
THIS PART OF TOWN, WALK ON THE FLOOD
* W/ WARREN HAYNES
Saturday night there was not a seat to be had.
Although I preferred Friday night’s show, this was in no way a weak outing, the first set in particular. Opening up with “Big Wooly Mammoth”, Panic mixed in one of my favorites from the new album,”Angels on High,” between “North” and “Little Lilly.”
The second set lagged a bit for me, but it was great to hear “Airplane” and “Blackout Blues.” The latter tune — from their third album– was a fantastic choice to close the show.
BIG WOOLY MAMMOTH, NORTH, ANGELS ON HIGH, LITTLE LILLY>ROCK>JAM>HATFIELD, HOPE IN A HOPELESS WORLD, CONRAD
FROM THE CRADLE, BOWLEGGED WOMAN, PAPA’S HOME>THREE CANDLES>AIRPLANE>DRUMS>PAPA’S HOME, HENRY PARSONS DIED
LETS GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD, BLACKOUT BLUES
This was my first time to United Palace. It is one of the more recent, and unique, additions to the City’s concert scene, located at West 177th Street and Broadway. Designed by Thomas Lamb, the theatre opened for vaudeville and movies as the Loews’ Wonder Palace in 1930. Now owned by the Christ Community United Church, this 3,500 capacity theater has been restored to its former glory and is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in the City.
It is only within the past year or so that the church has been putting on concerts, and only occasionally. They’re doing a fantastic thing for their community, bringing in 3,500 people that would not have been there. Friday night, I had a great burger and a few Black and Tan’s at Coogan’s, perhaps the last true Irish bar in Upper Manhattan, and a fantastic Churrasco at El Conde on Saturday.
That said, it is an old place and has a tough time absorbing crowds of this size. The one (ONE!) men’s room in the place had a line like no other all evening. Plus, I’ve not seen gouging on beer prices like this in quite a while. A 9oz. plastic cup of Checkered Cab Blonde was $7.
Fortunately, and most importantly, the room itself was a fantastic place to see a show. From where I sat in the Upper Loge/Balcony, the sound was perfect, and I could see everything.
All in all, it was a great weekend of music and a chance to check out a neighborhood I’d never visited.