Five years ago, Panic! at the Disco’s debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out could be found pulsing through the headphones of every 16-year-old scenester’s first generation iPod Nano. Much has changed for the band since their just-out-of-high-school explosion into the mainstream music scene — the group has undergone multiple stylistic changes, a near break-up, and an unprecedented rise from the ashes with their new album Vices & Virtues. Earlier this year, lead singer Brendon Urie told PopMatters that he couldn’t “remember the last time it felt this good on stage”, referencing new touring members Ian Crawford (lead guitar) and Dallon Weekes (bass). If the band’s recent showing in Indianapolis is any indication, Urie’s assessment couldn’t have been more truthful.
The band’s current US tour features support from Whittier, California alt-rock act Funeral Party and New York indie rock band, fun. The former kicked off the night with a set packed with tracks from their recent debut The Golden Age of Knowhere as impassioned vocalist Chad Elliot flung about the stage, stopping at one point to throw candy into the crowd (always a plus). fun. followed, providing a real treat with an engaging set filled with sugary indie pop from their debut album Aim and Ignite. Formed by Nate Ruess after the Format parted ways in 2008, fun. is exactly what their name exudes, engaging the crowd in such a way that you could almost forget they were the supporting act. Only a few songs into their set, the crowd was bouncing along with each number as one new listener turned to me to shout “I’m loving this!” While the majority of the crowds on this tour may be turning out for the headliner, it’s safe to say that fun. is earning more than a few new fans each night.
It’s clear from one glance at the crowd on their current tour that Panic! at the Disco’s listener demographic has expanded greatly. No longer simply scene heartthrobs, Panic! has an audience that now reaches not only multiple age groups but also crowds with diverse musical tastes. Perhaps this should come as no surprise since the band has dabbled in numerous genres over the course of a mere three albums. You name it — pop-punk, baroque pop, electronic rock, emo, psychadelic — Panic! has been there, done that. And they’ve done it quite well.
Panic! at the Disco never seems to fail when it comes to putting on a production and their current tour is no exception. The stage was sent back in time for the band’s set, featuring organ pipes, old-style wooden radio speakers, a giant draping curtain backdrop, and classy throwback outfits adorned by the band’s members. To the crowd’s delight, the band exploded onto the stage with their current single “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)” before instantly transitioning into “But It’s Better If You Do”. Surprisingly, Brendon Urie was looking limber after suffering from a tear in his ankle while performing just 11 days prior and nearly derailing the tour. The singer moved across the stage with ease and appeared to be in top form.
Panic blazed through 17 songs in all, but only played two numbers from 2008’s polarizing Pretty. Odd., an album mostly masterminded by now-former members Ryan Ross and Jon Walker. Regardless, the setlist was anything but lacking and even included treats in the form of “C’mon”, a split single between Panic! and fun. as well as an incredible cover of Kansas’ hit “Carry on Wayward Son” which was dedicated to all of the parents in the audience who had driven their kids out to the show. Other highlights included a sing-along acoustic performance from Urie of “Always” along with the band’s infectious hits “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”.
Despite the changes to the band’s lineup, Panic! looked and sounded tighter than ever. Urie, Crawford, Weekes, and drummer Spencer Smith interacted on stage as though there was no place they’d rather be and a crowd that spanned generations was united in excitement and song. It’s impossible to tell whether the band will once again reach the heights of success that came with their multi-platinum debut, but perhaps success comes in different forms these days for Panic!. With a diverse arsenal of musical talents, a penchant for theatrics, and sell-out crowds bouncing and singing along to every song, the Vices and Virtues Tour makes for one hell of a summer concert.
Panic! at the Disco