PANIC! AT THE DISCO at OGDEN THEATRE | 06/28/11
This was going to be a big show -- it had to be. Panic! At The Disco, performing last night to a sold out and extremely sweaty crowd at The Ogden Theatre, hadn't been back to Denver since the band basically split in half in 2009, and the mix of curiosity and expectation of the relatively new line-up's performance was high.
Would they suck without once-principle songwriter and founding member Ryan Ross? Would the band be as fun to watch with a full album of new material and new faces? The answer was, well, hell yes. Panic! At The Disco tore the house down with vicious and beautiful teeth, an hour and a half of flashy stage accoutrements and plain old over-the-top showmanship.
Unfortunately for the opening acts, there was just no proper way to appropriately prime the crowd for the big top show that followed. Funeral Party went first, crammed into the tiny space at the front of the stage that was left after Panic's deftly hidden props and instruments were positioned. The California quartet pushed hard through songs like "NYC Moves To The Sound Of LA" and "Finale," with its Rapture-esque dance floor urgency highlighted with knocks of heavy cowbell. Lead singer Chad Elliot's crucifix-style mike stand positioning came off slightly haughty for a band with a half-hour set, but the audience obliged.
Next came fun., a group so squeaky clean in appearance it was hard to tell if this was a band or a church group. Smiling eerily through poppy songs like "All The Pretty Girls," lead singer Nate Ruess took Jesus-posing to Bono levels, gripping his microphone dramatically, while making assuming eyes at all of the pretty girls. The band itself was tight, songs dripping with pretty melodies and synthetic music box noises, coming off like an accidental late-'60s Fifth Dimension tribute. The wholesome six-piece vibed through "Barlights," complete with a mid-song breakdown that gave Ruess plenty more time to do his posey, preachy, weird, camp counselor thing on the monitors. "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)" thankfully closed the awkward set and fun. was done.
Making the crowd wait in the heat for what seemed like a hellish teenage eternity, Panic! finally entered the room after the lights had been teasingly dim for quite some time. Opening with "I'm Ready To Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)," the quartet exploded onto the stage in crisp button ups, suspenders, bowties and big smiles, energy radiating from every possibly angle. Though two members of the band -- Ian Crawford and Dallon Weekes -- were new, the band's costumed appearance was only slightly different from previous tours.
The garlands and vines of flowers from the Pretty. Odd. days were gone, as was the circus sideshow feel of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, replaced now by a stage set-up full of antique-looking science lab gadgets, fake gauges rattling on wooden boxes topped with lightbulbs and pieces of metal and piping. "But It's Better If You Do" was followed with "The Ballad Of Mona Lisa," daunting vintage stage lights gleaning a factory feel off the stage-floor-to-ceiling backdrop of moth-eaten rags.
Beautifully snide bandleader Brendon Urie's range has improved dramatically since the last time around; the vocalist hit some insane hair metal highs at unexpected points in the set. When he wasn't singing, Urie was coddling and verbally snuggling up to his audience, telling dirty jokes and flirting unabashedly with his admirers, who were, by all accounts, totally enamored with the bewitching gentleman. "Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off" gave Urie another chance to bat eyelashes, newer band members Weekes and Crawford following his lead and angling guitars heads and bodies in precariously human-like positions while making peek-a-boo faces.
New and old material was treated with the same deft precision and welcomed with equal arms by the crowd; as "Trade Mistakes" bloomed, "Camisado" let Urie's falsetto flutter out again and "Hurricane" served him the same. "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage" incited a large audience participation before Urie found himself atop a lit-up, Panic! At The Disco-emblazoned upright piano/pulpit to begin "Let's Kill Tonight."
Floor toms were brought out and set in front of each member, the gentlemen slinging guitars behind their backs so they could harmonize and bang along to drummer Spencer Smith's beats. The stage then went dark and silent, except for the reproduced sound of a Tesla Coil snapping and cracking faintly in the distance. Urie soon appeared alone and strapped with an acoustic guitar for "Always," coyly asking the audience if the smell of weed was a normal occurrence for shows.
The three remaining members slowly trickled back out as the song came to an end, Urie regaining his place at the upright piano for "Nine In The Afternoon," followed by "That Green Gentleman" and "The Calendar." A cute attempt at "Panic" by The Smiths was received with quizzical eyes from the audience, but the band picked the show back up with "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." The now classic-Panic song found Urie forehead-to-forehead with Crawford for the finale, the bro-love spreading across the stage throughout the night with lots of goofy and harmless inter-band flirtation.
Not long after the group left the stage, Urie returned for the encore with a lit cigarette in hand. Continuing not to give a fuck, the band covered Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son," complete with knee-sliding guitar solos and adorably obscene open-mouth gestures. Smith snapped a quick picture of the audience from his position behind the kit and the night ended with "Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met...)."
This was Panic's best show to date in Denver. Parting ways with Ross and bassist Jon Walker may have been the best thing to ever happen to the quartet, as it seemed to give Urie the needed push to let his raging ego manic-flag fly. And the ego is what the audience obviously came for, as we gobbled up every ounce of attention the lead singer flung at us.
Personal Bias: I was, up until this show, a diehard Ryan Ross girl for life. I now owe my allegiance to Brendon Urie. Random Detail: The band had an army of gorgeous guitars -- a white Airline, Fenders of all colors, and possibly a Danelectro too? By The Way: When this band appeared in the mid-2000s, it was easy to write Panic off as a sort-of smart pop-rock act -- now I don't think they will ever go away.
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