Panic! At The Disco At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, Match 2nd, 2017, Reviewed
There is only one Panic left in 2017 but fortunately for the kids who must have been in diapers when A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was released, back when the emo boys were palling with Fall Out Boys and Cute Is What We Aim For, it’s the Panic you want to see, Brendon Urie. Brendon kept on going right through disasters like 2011’s Vices And Virtues and live albums no one wanted, waiting for the 00s nostalgia trip to kick in. But last year’s Death Of A Bachelor caught fire for a new generation of fans, exploring his smart but not too smart modern rock anthems with enough twists to fly past the Soundgarden soundalikes to fit it with FOBs at the top of the charts. Fortunately for the tweens and teens, Brendon keeps to the new age for the most part, relegating the breakthrough album to a medley in the middle. That was so long ago that it is Mary Rudzis and not Helen Bach who will be feeling her age when the rock nycers go to see Panic! In The Disco tonight in Worcester, MA. It was so long ago that “LA Devotee,” not to mention “Stranger Things”, boy actor-star Noah Schnapp, was in knickerbockers when we first wrote about em. Yet here we are (rather, here I am), as shocked as Brendon Urie must be at a sold out MSG (“this is really crazy… holy shit, oh lord” -yeah, his patter needs work), ready to celebrate the death of a bachelor and the rebirth of a major major popstar. And there is Noah, singing along to “LA Devotee” with Urie (who fluffs his hair affectionately): a dream come true for the kid, and a dream come true for the smooth voiced and pretty ace dancer Urie, who isn’t quite Arena ready, he doesn’t work the room as well as he should, and still living the dream.
I love going to MSG because it is always a big deal for the bands that play there: it is like a note with “made it” scribbled on the back, it defines big time even for Billy Joel (Panic covered “Movin’ Out” Wednesday) and that’s why Vegas native Urie’s Mommy made the trip. And it is why there is a sense of unbelievable that permeates the stage for long time rock nyc faves (I interviewed em in 2010) Saint Motel, high octane glam rockers with salsa on the brain, and Misterwives, natives made good with at least one great song to their name (“Same Drugs”). On stage neither band, as opening bands go, are even slightly out of their depth. I haven’t seen Saint Motel in years and really need to catch em perform a full set, if and when they headline here, you know they’d use all the real estate.. Misterwives are too touchy feely for my taste, they are like Paramore without the Para, but they were pretty good.
Urie looked dapper and suave and howlingly good looking, the girls in the audience, like a rotation behind Wednesday night’s country gig girls at the same room, dashed around texting, buying merch, plugging in their cellies, roared their approval. I was never a Panic hater though it took Pretty.Odd, to make a serious impression on me. Only “Nine In The Afternoon” has survived the essential purge of pre-Death Of A Bachelor material. Except for the loss of “Folkin’ Around,” I don’t much care. Looking Vegas ready and cool, Brendon opened with the rock lobster boiled to a turn “Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time,” a typically amusing lyric to a tuneful rock emo track pumped up to 11. I enjoyed it on the album and it was, if anything, even better on stage. And the second song, the awesome “LA Devotee” was nearly its equal.
After that, while it doesn’t quite sag, Brendon doesn’t quite grasp the dynamics of arena rock, he needs to work the side of the stage, he needs to project hard and out but he is still playing like it’s a 1500 seater. Even a walk down the center of the arena doesn’t quite do it. The stage is a little static and withdrawn and while the lights are fine, nothing much happens. Also, if Urie is so clever, why doesn’t he say anything clever? If his stage presence is missing, his singing is terrific. The Frank Sinatra fan (ahhh, Vegas again!) looks younger than his 29 years of age (by the way, that makes him sixteen when he started) and you root for him all the way through. It isn’t presence, no, it is youthfully ingratiating and in the end he pulls it off, nobody claimed he was phoning it in, the man gave it everything he had and didn’t disappoint an adoring audience. Me as well, we got the terrific “Crazy=Genius,”. naming checking not just Brian but Dennis Wilson as well. He is crazy, crazy like a fox as he pours fire on his songs and burned the place down.