(Widespread Panic Archives #4)
At Montreal’s Club Soda Club venue on September 8, 1997, Widespread Panic crossed geographical and musical borders. All the band’s cylinders were firing on this night. Panic’s fourth Archival release proves another formidable recorded live performance and with the amount of shows Panic has played the end of classic releases seems to be nowhere in sight. This Montreal show contains Panic’s high-powered magic. At one point towards the end of the show John Bell told the Montreal crowd, “Well, well, well. Looks like we‘ve won your sympathy and you have won our hearts. Thank you very much...”
In the liner notes, band archivist Horace Moore provided insight to this particular evening. “That’s what’s really special about this Club Soda show. In looking at how this September 1997 tour was structured, this could have been a show to skip…or maybe not. This was the fourth show in a row to open the tour, on a Monday night, involved crossing an international border, at a real small place so it might not be crowded, and, of course Montreal’s got that whole French thing going on. All of that could keep some from making the trip, but for others, those were exactly the reasons to go…and possibly collect the rewards for doing so…and maybe even soak up a little culture in the process. The band just seems to have a knack to know when the fans have gone out of their way and really paid some dues to make it. Or when a local crowd gets it. In either case…and in terms of this Montreal 1997 show, both cases…Widespread Panic gets off on that and then seems to go the extra mile…”
The setlist is memorable, but there is a powerful dynamic at work at this show. The group operated in command of it’s own talent on this evening with an aggressive, muscular sound. The 3-CD collection sounds remarkable. Fans can choose their favorites as they always do, but for this writer highlights on this performance stand as a covers of Bloodkin’s “Can’t Get High”, Tom Waits’ “Goin’ Out West”, J.J. Cale’s “Travelin’ Light” and Neil Young’s “Last Dance”. Original compositions that emerge as gems include “Heroes”, “Greta”, “Space Wrangler”, “Bear’s Gone Fishing Jam”, “Porch Song”, "Gradle" and “Tallboy”.
Horace Moore told me on the release date of this archive: "It's a little bar with two or three hundred people. Chris Rabold has done a great job of mixing this nice, huge full recording, but the crowd mix in it reminds you that you are kind of in a bar. You can hear single voices here and there. Not a bunch of white crowd noise so to speak like at a civic center. It's hallmark right out of the gate. The band is just all over it. Quickly you can tell the crowd is into it. A few people made the trip, but a lot of the crowd was local Montreal people. It didn't take them long to figure out what the band was doing."
As it turned out, Panic won Montreal over. This show will always sound timeless...