Powerhouse band Panic! At the Disco brought their signature complex multi-leveled sound and pounding beat to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles this summer, keeping the SRO crowd on their feet with their current hits as well as old favorites. The small stage at the Greek blazed a complex and colorful light show as the band opened with "Vegas Lights," and "Time to Dance." Lead singer Brendon Urie, wearing a gold lamé jacket and leather pants, strutted through his opening songs filtering his own sound from a mixing board at his microphone to distort, compress or filter his voice as he chose, mimicking the studio sounds created for their hits. Touring guitarist Kenneth Harris and bassist Dallon Weekes played to adoring fans as did touring drummer Dan Pawlovich.
It was fantastic to hear Urie's adjustments live so that familiar songs sounded exactly like their releases. But the singles don't capture the band's contagious energy. Urie on stage is kinetic, non-stop, upbeat and electric, even as many of the lyrics descend into sadness, disconnection, torment and isolation. But Urie is all smiles in between songs, with rarely a break for banter as the final guitar sustain of a last note of one song gets trampled by a new rock beat that leads into the next one. Jumping up and down as he sings his wailing laments clearly shows he's loving what he's doing as he kicks and gyrates to the music's effusive thunder.
If you could compact the fury of punk rock, the wit of musical theater and the predatory dating energy of a twenty-something rave party, you'd have bottled the chemistry of Panic! At The Disco's music. Fanciful melodies with lyrics that sound like soliloquies keep you thinking as the music stampedes you through to the next verse.
Some song titles themselves sound like existential considerations like: "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage." or "Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off." Both were terrific live.
The throngs of fans sang along in perfect synchronization to songs from the band's new album "Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die," as the group played "Nicotine," a withering dirge on the addiction of love, "Miss Jackson" and "This is Gospel" as well as their older hits "The Ballad of Mona Lisa," "Let's Kill Tonight" and "Ready to Go." Smoke canons fired to the beat as the band powered through a tight set of constant motion.
An unexpected full blown cover of Bohemian Rhapsody in the middle of the set surprised many as few could really sing this song properly and the band nailed it. You could see they were all having fun as Urie hit every note Freddy Mercury did without breaking a sweat and touring guitarist Kenneth Harris played a perfect cover solo. Urie also has a beautiful falsetto, but several times went two octaves above that into some high pitch that shouldn't register to human hearing and still kept on key.
Brendon Urie is the only original member of Panic! on tour, a band that exploded into success early and has had enough shifts and changes that each of their four albums cold be said to be played by a different group. Created by High School Friends Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith (original drummer) and Ryan Ross (vocals, guitar) they created the band's original sound and music along John Walker (bass). But the new album has been shouldered entirely by Urie and debuted at number 2 in the Billboard top 200. Ross and Walker left the group to form their own band in 2009 and Smith has taken time off the current tour to deal with addiction issues.
The band did 22 songs in 75 minutes including three encores, including "Positive Hardcore" and "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." The crowd would have stayed for another hour, the stadium was so revved up by the band's performance. Urie did a back flip off one of the podium boxes while singing the last encore which gives you an idea of the show's energy right to the end.
Panic! At the Disco's tour ends on October 24 in Las Vegas, Nevada, fittingly, as the band formed in that city while in high school.
The intimate stadium of the Greek Theater, holding only 5700, is one of my favorites in Los Angeles as its close quarters can even keep a rock show like this up close and personal.
Photo credit: Kiri Lin