Widespread Panic

Live in the Classic City

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That a quarter of the songs on this generous three-CD live set stretch beyond the ten-minute mark goes a long way toward explaining why Widespread Panic continues to be such a popular draw on the jam band circuit. Playing before an enthusiastic hometown Athens, GA, crowd, the band combines exploratory jamming and muscular riffing in just about equal measures. The result will probably still test the patience of the uninitiated, but a varied set list mixing up crowd favorites and worthy cover tunes (NRBQ and Col. Bruce Hampton among them) keeps things from becoming too redundant. Guests joining the band on stage include slide-guitar wunderkind Derek Trucks, the aforementioned Col. Bruce Hampton, and former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the best performances are of songs from the band's best studio albums to date, 1999's 'Til the Medicine Takes and 1988's debut, Space Wrangler. But as the band's fans will be quick to tell you, these guys have always been better on stage than in the studio. Live in the Classic City certainly bears that out, surpassing even the band's previous live releases, 1998's Light Fuse, Get Away and 2000's Another Joyous Occasion.

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