Panic! At The Disco Is Bigger Than Ever (Even Though It's Just One Guy Now)
Panic! At The Disco first came together in 2004, scored a top 10 song in 2006 — and last night they played a solo headlining show at Staples Center for the first time to a sold-out crowd. Even though the band, other than frontman Brendon Urie, all quit.
But it's OK! Urie has made a modern Panic show into a dazzling pop display, complete with pyro, confetti, and stripping his shirt off for the last few songs.
The show bursts open with Urie propelled up through the stage, leaping out along with streamers sailing over the audience. Without his old band members, he's now supported by a touring backing band, with the added power of strings and horns giving it an extra layer of orchestration.
The adoring screams overpower the music at times, just like any great personality-driven pop show. Urie puts out an incredible amount of energy over the course of two hours, spending most of it dancing hard while belting out the band's long catalog, straddling rock and musical theater vibes. He commands the crowd with his charisma and boyish looks, only 31 after starting the act when he was just 17.
Those screams are a sign of how the (one-man) band has reconnected with a young audience as a new generation of teens discovers their sound for the first time. They were nominated for the Teen Choice Awards this year for the first time in a decade, thanks to that ocean of fandom.
He fully embraces his Queen influences, doing full Freddie Mercury rock god preening, popping his hips to the delight of the fans. He also embraces his fans' desire for him, spending the last few songs shirtless to even more adoration.
Along with Panic's own crowd pleasers, he includes several fan-friendly covers. They include Queen's own "Bohemian Rhapsody," which Urie wistfully said he wished he would have written — they play the song fairly straight, offering a great live experience of a classic. Urie also had the chance to go Broadway in Kinky Boots last year, so he included show composer Cyndi Lauper's own "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" as well.
The band has continued to build in recent years, with 2016's Death of a Bachelor as their first number 1 album and their new release Pray for the Wicked continuing that streak. In an era where connecting with fans is more important than ever in a streaming-music world, Panic's doing just that.
That fan love can be seen visually during "Girls/Girls/Boys," a song about sexuality that followers have embraced as a gay pride anthem. During their last tour, fans started passing out multi-colored hearts for everyone to put over their phone lights, creating a rainbow sea of people across the arena. That tradition continues, with pride flags also sprinkled throughout the crowd, and Urie wearing one like a cloak during the song.
Urie knows that the fans want to connect with him — he gives some the chance to do that physically as he makes his way through the crowd singing "Death of a Bachelor," though the cameras end up catching more of a security guard's back than Urie himself as they try to keep him moving through the masses.
He follows that up with the most spectacular stunt of the night — boarding a piano on a platform that's lifted in the sky, slowly floating above the crowd as he covers "I Can't Make You Love Me" into Panic's "Dying in L.A." (Thankfully, safety protocols keep that title from being too literal.)
Being so beloved isn't all wonderful — he had to sell his old L.A. home due to fans moving on from sending letters and gifts to actually showing up at his house, and making him feel unsafe. But he's worked to still maintain a closeness with his supporters, even while maintaining his privacy.
Last night's show was the official homecoming show, though they still have two more dates left on this leg of the tour before going international.
The evening closed with a shirtless encore of "Say Amen (Saturday Night)," which went to number 1 on the alternative charts; their 2006 breakthrough single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"; and "Victorious," the anthemic single off their last album.
Then they release a last blast of confetti into the crowd, little bits of gold, Panic At The Disco logos, and hearts drifting down and leaving themselves on the dazed fans as they walk back out into the night.
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