Is There Anything Panic! at the Disco Can’t Do?

From backflips to Bonnie Raitt covers, Brendon Urie embodies on-stage theatrics like few other frontmen.

As theatrical as ever (Michelle Konstantinovsky)

“We’ve never done that before!” said Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco.

This is the same Brendon Urie who, about two hours earlier, had entered the arena by catapulting several feet skyward via a hydraulic powered “human toaster,” singing the lyric, “Fuck a silver lining.” The same one who floated above the crowd playing a flying piano, performing a mashup of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Panic! at the Disco’s “Dying in L.A.” The one that inspired an international fan-orchestrated display of equality and acceptance. And yep, the same Brendon Urie who loves to dance dangerously close to a concerning amount of pyrotechnics.

And yet, Tuesday night’s show before nearly 20,000 screaming fans at Oakland’s Oracle Arena included one first. During the second-to-last song, the much anticipated performance of Panic!’s first hit, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” Urie plucked five fans from the audience and brought them onstage to sing the first verse with him. “I love you!” he shouted at them shouting at him, as all six sang their way through the emo-pop anthem in varying states of smiley, stunned disbelief (Urie included).

As the chorus kicked in, Urie reclaimed control of the stage and seamlessly transitioned back into his role as Panic!’s ringleader. As the sole remaining permanent member of the band, Urie’s not only single-handedly kept the Panic! fandom alive, but thriving. Since the 2005 release of their debut, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, lineup changes, shake-ups, and departures have threatened to derail and dismantle Panic!, but Urie never let that happen. And now, as the multi-talented musician — during the night, he played guitar, drums, sang, and performed a signature perfect backflip — wraps up his 10th headlining tour, his passion is still palpable, from that first explosive moment of the Pray for the Wicked stage show to the closing chorus of the aptly-titled triumph song, “Victorious.”

This was the penultimate performance in the Pray for the Wicked Tour’s second U.S. leg. Urie and company (traveling guitarist Mike Naran, bassist Nicole Row, and drummer Dan Pawlovich) hit San Jose back in August, but in those few months, Panic! has refreshed and revamped the production enough to keep things exciting for returning crowds. The setlist addition of fan-favorite “Roaring 20s” was one new twist that triggered deafening screams as Gatsby-era visuals accompanied Urie’s Broadway-inspired anthem influenced by his 2017 run in Kinky Boots. The band also swapped out one cover for another, replacing Cyndi Lauper’s iconic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with “The Greatest Show,” Panic!’s contribution to The Greatest Showman movie tribute album.  

Karaoke time with Brendon Urie! (Michelle Konstantinovsky)

What’s remained consistent this tour is the grand scale of Panic!’s production that’s somehow packaged and delivered in a way that feels as intimate as an arena show possibly can. In addition to Naran, Row, and Pavlovich, Urie is joined onstage by The Wicked Strings and The Horny Boys, independent trios of string and horn players who’ve added a extra theatricality to Panic!’s tour presence.

But even with the added oomph of musical accompaniment, Urie manages to make the audience feel seen. During his infamous “Death Walk,” he strolls through the aisles, hugging and shaking hands while belting out 2016’s “Death of a Bachelor.” He talks to the mostly young crowd about the statistical unlikeliness of their existence (“the fact that any of us were born is astronomically insane — you had to race millions of other tadpoles and you got first place, so you’re already a winner”). And of course, as he did last night, he occasionally invites a few frenzied fans onstage to sing the hit that kicked off his career (potentially when some of these starstruck singers were still in diapers).

But while Panic! could have easily rested on the success that “Sins” brought 14 years ago, Urie’s dedication to artistic evolution and personal growth has taken his band through six studio albums and newfound milestones — last year’s “High Hopes” recently surpassed ”Sins” as Panic!’s most-streamed song. And it’s exciting to imagine what could come next when a performer with every right to show signs of fatigue is only getting more fired up with every song, album, and heartfelt singalong. As Panic! wraps up the Pray for the Wicked era overseas, it’s almost certain something even more epic could be on the way.

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