Music & Nightlife

Review: Panic! At The Disco is ... Indulgent! At The Spectrum Center (in a good way)

Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, performing Tuesday night at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center.
Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, performing Tuesday night at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center.

Note to Merriam-Webster: In the next edition of your dictionary, might I suggest a photograph of Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie beside the entry for the word “indulgent”?

It could be a pic of him beating the stuffing out of a set of drums while going pound for pound with his drummer. Or it could be a photo of him doing a backflip — yes, a legit heels-over-head backflip — immediately after that drum-off. Or, if it’s the online version of the dictionary, it could be an audio clip of any of the 1,673 times during this particular show when he took his voice up to the region of falsetto territory that will shatter your good crystal.

This isn’t a criticism. (Look up the word indulgent, which doesn’t mean the same thing as self-indulgent — although a cynic could argue that he’s that, too.)

What I’m saying is: Yes, in general, the 31-year-old singer’s shtick — the swagger-rific dancing, the exaggerated facial expressions, the holy-(expletive)-wait-is-that-even-a-note?? vocal flourishes — seemed pretty excessive and pretty frivolous during P!ATD’s close-to-sold-out concert at Spectrum Center on Tuesday night.

Yet at the same time, that shtick also seemed critical to helping create an almost absurdly fun and flavorful concert-going experience, one that firmly secures Urie’s place among today’s most electrifying live performers.

From the moment he was practically catapulted onto the stage while launching into catchy 2018 hit “(F--- A) Silver Lining” at the start of the show to his final shirtless bow upon closing with emo anthem “Victorious” 27 songs later, there was some sort of eye candy to look at, or some kind of novelty to regard.

First it was silver streamers sailing across the arena during “Silver Lining.”

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Things heat up for Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco. Benjamin Robson

Then flames shooting 8 feet high during “Crazy=Genius” (which starts with Urie singing “You can set yourself on fire / You can set yourself on fire”), and “Miss Jackson,” and “Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Then Urie suspended with his white grand piano 30 feet above the ground, belting Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (“one that reminds me of home, that (my mom) used to play all the time for me,” he said) and “Dying in LA” (from the current album) while he and the instrument slowly floated across the length of the arena floor.

The list goes on.

My two favorite gimmicks, though, were:

1. The rainbow-colored sea of cellphone lights that filled the arena during P!ATD’s LGBTQ-friendly anthem “Girls/Girls/Boys,” created by heart-shaped filters left at fans’ seats that were color-coded to each section. Add to that a giant display of rainbow colors on the hanging video screens, rainbow-colored strobes and spotlights and lasers, and a mid-song release of rainbow-colored confetti, and ... well, the point was made — in kaleidoscopic fashion. Of course, die-hard fans know that Panic! has been doing this for a couple of years now, so, many near the stage came prepared with rainbow flags; I counted eight that were tossed onto the stage, and by the final chorus, Urie had draped every one of them over his shoulders. “Woo! That’s a lot of flags,” he said after the song ended.

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Brendon Urie is draped in flags during his performance of “Girls/Girls/Boys.” Benjamin Robson

2. The nearly seven-minute rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” If you’re willing to agree that this qualifies as a gimmick — and come on, as fun as it is now, it was a gimmicky song when Queen brought it to EMI in 1975, it was gimmicky when Panic! remade it for the “Suicide Squad” movie in 2016, and it’s gimmicky now — then I’ll gladly agree with you that it’s a great gimmick. Especially when you can sing it as colorfully as (although stylistically different from) Freddy Mercury, and especially when your backing band can re-create it note-perfectly. Merely by chance, Urie & Co. performed it in Charlotte on the very same day the movie of the same name was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Said Urie: “We’ve done this song for one reason: Because in my opinion, it’s the best song ever composed.” I’ve certainly never heard anyone else perform it so well live besides Mercury, and to be honest, I’ve only heard Mercury do it live on YouTube.

As expected, the tour focuses heavily on the band’s newest material; it played nine songs from 2018’s “Pray for the Wicked” and seven from 2016’s “Death of a Bachelor,” along with its soaring cover of Hugh Jackman’s “The Greatest Show” from “The Greatest Showman: Reimagined.”

Meanwhile, the only songs P!ATD brought over from the previous decade on Tuesday night were “Nine in the Afternoon” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”

That’s not a complaint, by the way. In fact, I don’t know how the die-hards feel, but I’ve determined after listening to “Pray for the Wicked” on repeat for the past week that this new album is their best.

If there is something to complain about, it’s that it’s hard to feel a connection to anyone in the band besides Urie. He’s literally the only permanent member of Panic! these days, and his touring musicians — though seriously quite good — all kind of blend into the scenery.

Urie didn’t do anything to help them pop out of it, either: Late in the show, he gave kudos to opening acts Betty Who and Two Feet, but didn’t name a single member of his backing band. (For the record, the lineup included Nicole Rowe on bass, Mike Naran on guitar, Dan Pawlovich on drums, violinist Desiree Hazley, cellist Leah Metzler, viola player Kiara Ana Perico, trombonist Erm Navarro, saxophonist Jesse Molloy, and trumpeter Chris Bautista.)

Then again, maybe that’s good. That they blended into the scenery, that is.

After all, when you’ve got a showman as great as Urie, it’s honestly probably best to just stand back and let him indulge.

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Brendon Urie with touring bassist Nicole Rowe and touring guitarist Mike Naran, late in Tuesday night’s show. Benjamin Robson

Panic! At The Disco’s set list

1. “(F--- A) Silver Lining”

2. “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time”

3. “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)“

4. “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”

5. “LA Devotee”

6. “Hallelujah”

7. “Crazy=Genius”

8. “The Ballad of Mona Lisa”

9. “Nine in the Afternoon”

10. “One of the Drunks”

11. “Casual Affair”

12. “Vegas Lights”

13. “Dancing’s Not a Crime”

14. “This Is Gospel”

15. “Death of a Bachelor”

16. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt cover)

17. “Dying in LA”

18. “The Greatest Show” (Pasek and Paul cover)

19. “Girls/Girls/Boys”

20. “King of the Clouds”

21. “High Hopes”

22. “Miss Jackson”

23. “Roaring 20s”

24. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen cover)

25. “Emperor’s New Clothes”

Encore:

26. “Say Amen” (Saturday Night)

27. “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”

28. “Victorious”

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