For those who wrote Panic! at the Disco off as a one-hit wonder or pronounced them dead in the water years ago, take note. The group is back with a vengeance and performed like their lives depended on it last Wednesday at Emo’s East. Story by Bryan Rolli
Band members dressed in all black suits, except for lead singer Brendon Urie, who sported his best Vegas lounge lizard getup with a gold blazer, black leather pants and leopard print shoes. The group opened the night with a high-octane version of “Vegas Lights” off their new album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! The light show was appropriately dazzling, with strobes illuminating the stage and seeker lights washing the audience in a multitude of hues. Despite the band’s heavy use of electronics in their studio recordings, the instrumentation was top-notch and airtight, maintaining a frenetic energy all night and providing the perfect backdrop for Urie’s wild antics.
Make no mistake: this was the Brendon Urie Show. If Panic! can attribute their success to one primary factor, it’s having a front man who busts his ass for the duration of every set. Urie showcased his stunning vocal acrobatics on every song, ranging from ear-shattering falsettos to a deep vibrato that would make Eddie Vedder blush. He also proved an adept keyboardist and guitarist and even hopped behind the drums for a nervy, double-bass ridden solo at the end of “Let’s Kill Tonight.” Urie’s leaps and backflips across the stage elicited howls of excitement from the crowd, as did his explicit sexual comments: “You should all get naked!” during the song “Girls/Girls/Boys," which would’ve been fine for all the mothers in the crowd, had they not been chaperoning their teenage daughters.
Despite his vitality onstage, Urie maintained an air of cool detachment for most of the evening, with one exception. Taking to the piano for a tender solo performance of “The End of All Things,” he brought the mood down and took the audience on an emotional journey. The band rejoined him as the song swelled to a climax, Urie pounding on the keys and delivering his most astonishingly high notes of the night, before pulling away from the microphone, looking physically and emotionally exhausted. It was the most poignant moment of the evening and a welcomed break in the otherwise nonstop action.
As per usual, the band only played lead single “Nine in the Afternoon” off of their criminally overlooked sophomore effort Pretty. Odd. Since its release, the group has given the short shrift to their foray into Beatle-esque pop, which is truly a shame because it still features their boldest, most concentrated songwriting to date, as well as a more organic sound that thrives brilliantly in a live setting. For a band with a career that revolves around reinvention, Panic! at the Disco’s greatest weakness is their unwillingness to fully own up to their biggest — and most rewarding — stylistic departure.
Still, the group masterfully delivered its blend of electronic pop-rock with gusto, while also injecting a little humor into the set. Urie, a prolific poster on video app Vine, led them in a spirited death metal rendition of his regular “Positive Hardcore Thursday” segment (his guttural lows are surprisingly vicious). The band also unveiled a brand new addition to its set, a lyrical cover of Van Halen’s “Jump” set to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Seeing as both songs pre-dated the teenybopper crowd by at least two decades, it’s no surprise that few of them sang along. “That was more for us than it was for you,” bassist Dallon Weekes said sheepishly.
With their 10th anniversary right around the corner, Panic! at the Disco sound just as fresh now as they did upon the release of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out in 2005. They owe their enduring success to a knack for writing a pop hook, penchant for reinvention and exhilarating live show. “Let’s get these teen hearts beating faster, faster!” the group’s rapturous front man demanded during “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.” Mission accomplished, Urie.