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Widespread Panic; G. Love & Special Sauce

Atlanta-based jam rockers Widespread Panic recently drew an estimated crowd of 100,000 to a hometown concert, so perhaps booking expectations were overly high for this package tour.

With:
Bands: (WP) John Bell, Michael Houser, Dave Schools, John Hermann, Todd Nance, Domingo Ortiz; (GL) Garrett Dutton, Jeff Clemens, Jimmy Prescott, Earl Bryant Jr., Chad Howlett.

Atlanta-based jam rockers Widespread Panic recently drew an estimated crowd of 100,000 to a hometown concert, so perhaps booking expectations were overly high for this package tour. First-week dates on the West Coast, including this Universal stop, have mostly drawn crowds far below capacity. But such details don’t seem to bother the six-member Widespread Panic, which gave the Amphitheatre audience (which appeared to barely fill the venue’s orchestra section) a memorable two-hour show comprising some of its best live numbers.

Opening with a buoyant version of Van Morrison’s yearning “Send Your Mind,” the always-steady Panic quickly set a fun, rocking tone and easy-rolling pace that was sustained through its entire set.

Like most bands of this Dead-inspired genre, Panic set lists change each night; highlights this time included “Greta,” with its long, energetic jam, the musically self-explanatory “Driving Song” (which segued in and out of “Disco”), the Talking Heads’ “Papa Legba” and new composition “All Time Low.”

The tour supports the group’s double-length live album, “Light Fuse … Get Away” (Capricorn). The tour — dubbed Widespread Panic & Friends — currently features funk-hip-hoppers G. Love & Special Sauce, as well as Southern power trio Gov’t Mule and New Orleans jazz-funk-jammers Galactic.

The stripped-down, old-school blues-funk of singer-guitarist G. Love and his band Special Sauce was a tasty appetizer before the evening’s main course.

A sharp hip-hop edge gave the trio’s mellow, otherwise venerable stylings a contemporary flavor, highlighted by “Stepping Stones,” from the band’s recent Okeh-Epic Records album “Yeah It’s That Easy.”

An exciting set-ending spotlight turn from Brodeeva, Earl Bryant Jr. and Chad Howlett, who sang back-up vocals and danced throughout G. Love’s hour-long performance, nearly upstaged their boss.

Widespread Panic; G. Love & Special Sauce

Rock; Universal Amphitheatre; 6,251 seats; $25

Production: Presented by Universal Concerts. Reviewed May 31, 1998.

Cast: Bands: (WP) John Bell, Michael Houser, Dave Schools, John Hermann, Todd Nance, Domingo Ortiz; (GL) Garrett Dutton, Jeff Clemens, Jimmy Prescott, Earl Bryant Jr., Chad Howlett.

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