Widespread Panic - Live at Myrtle Beach

Widespread Panic
Live at Myrtle Beach

(Sanctuary)

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2005, Volume 12, #2

Written by John Metzger

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On November 8, 2003, Widespread Panic reconvened for the third straight night at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for what was not only the final show of its fall tour, but also ó with the exception of a pair of concerts held at yearís end in Atlanta ó effectively began the collectiveís extended hiatus. Itís not surprising, then, that on its latest concert recording Live at Myrtle Beach, which features the entire second set from this performance, the band sounds remarkably tired. Thereís no question that times had been tough for Widespread Panic; after all, founding guitarist Michael Houser was diagnosed with cancer in early 2002, and succumbed to the disease in August of that year. Yet, the ensemble maintained its exhausting schedule with the Kudzu Kingsí George McConnell assuming Houserís place within the group. While thereís little doubt that McConnell had some mighty lofty shoes to fill, itís evident from the music contained on Live at Myrtle Beach that he was well-suited to the task of breathing fire into the groupís testosterone-driven southern rock. In fact, he along with guest guitarist John Keane and bass player Dave Schools, provided the few bright spots on this otherwise lackluster evening. The problem is that, for the most part, Widespread Panic was stuck on autopilot and no longer was invested in its material. Instead, each song meandered almost aimlessly, and whenever any momentum was built, it quickly collapsed in a dilapidated heap. Workhorse tunes like Ainít Life Grand and Robert Johnsonís Stop Breakiní Down Blues were given perfunctory readings, and although the bandís snarling guitars and spry keyboards managed to lift Donít Wanna Lose You above its droning, repetitive groove, there was little to keep it aloft. Consequently, after veering through a funk-fueled jam into the hazy, country-tinged swirl of New Riders of the Purple Sageís Dirty Business, the energy departed with an unmitigated gasp. Indeed, by the time Widespread Panic reached its trio of encores (Postcard, Bowlegged Woman, and Chilly Water), it merely limped across the finish line, perhaps all too happy to be heading home for a long overdue respite from the road. While there certainly are enough worthwhile moments buried within Live at Myrtle Beach to make the collection a satisfying gambit for the ensembleís most diehard fans, most people simply wonít have the patience to persevere through the fog to find them. starstar Ĺ

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2005 The Music Box