Panic! At the Disco still has the fever
Panic! At the Disco has seen ups and downs, frequently changed personnel and musical styles, deleted and re-added an exclamation point to “Panic!,” and received both critical acclaim and disdain during a 13-year career, which began in Las Vegas. With three of four founding members gone, frontman Brendon Urie is Panic! At the Disco at this point, and he’s pushed the music in a direction that no one could have predicted when the band released A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out in 2005. Marriage matured him, and a growing predilection for Frank Sinatra caused him to explore the lower register of his vocal range and infuse several songs on 2015 album Death of a Bachelor with Ol’ Blue Eyes sensitivities.
That’s only one ingredient in Urie’s current stylistic mélange, still recognizably Panic! due to the unmistakable tone and trill of his vocals but blended with pop and pomp-rock flavors. The up-tempo urgency is still present in songs such as Death of a Bachelor opener “Victorious” and B-52s homage “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time,” but Urie’s newfound croon shows up five songs deep into the album on the title cut and reappears on closing song “The Impossible Year.” Death’s bold blend of old and new pleased some critics and puzzled others, but the response Panic! has been getting on its first headlining tour since Urie carved out his new direction indicates the fans have been won over.
As frontman, Urie has always been center stage, but now he’s on the road with what for all intents and purposes is a touring band and a spectacle of a show that demonstrates how comfortable he is with stardom and being in the spotlight. An extrovert who has been open about being treated for ADHD with medication as a student, Urie commands the stage much like Freddie Mercury did with Queen, whose “Bohemian Rhapsody” has become a highlight of Panic!’s live shows. It’s all the more remarkable when considering Panic!’s origin as a band that was signed before playing a live show.
Urie turned what could have been a detriment into an opportunity. After playing some initial no-frills concerts, the band adapted a circus theme as they hit the road for extensive touring. Top-hatted Urie was a natural ringmaster amid the dancers and sideshow performers sharing the stage with the musicians, and the precedent for conceptual live production was set. Now, as they tour in support of their first album to hit No. 1, a bigger-than-life show is expected from Panic! At the Disco, complete with back flips by Urie. With the rest of the band suited up in matching dark outfits, Urie sets himself apart with a leopard-print tux and his hyperactivity disorder channeled into a nonstop manic stage presence.
Of course, if Sinatra continues to be an influence, that could all change. A framed portrait of Sinatra overlooks the upright piano in Urie’s home that he composed many of his ideas for Death on, and, as early as 2014, he covered “Fly Me to the Moon” at an awards concert and received an enthusiastic reception. It might not be possible to predict where Panic! At the Disco will be 13 years from now, but whatever Urie does, it will be done with inspiration. Not bad for a guy who built his chops singing Scorpions and Journey songs while working at Tropical Smoothie Café.
Mandalay Bay, 7 p.m. March 24, $39.50-$59.50 plus tax and fee. 800.745.3000 Ticketmaster