Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie Just Wants to Have Fun

Brendon Urie's ever-evolving lineup rolled out some new music on Tuesday at San Jose's SAP Center, as well as covers of Bonnie Raitt and Cyndi Lauper.

(Michelle Konstantinovsky)

When the night’s headliner launches into the air and onstage via human toaster-style hydraulics — and somehow manages to make that one of the least interesting parts of his show — you know you’re in the presence of greatness. Meet Brendon Urie.

As the heart and soul of Panic! at the Disco, the multi-talented musician kept the SAP Center crowd riveted for almost two hours Tuesday night when The Pray For The Wicked Tour landed in San Jose. While the show is one of Panic!’s last stops of the tour’s first U.S. leg, Urie and company showed no signs of slowing, maintaining mile-high energy and musical stamina.

Let’s talk about that entrance. While Urie has essentially embraced solo stardom — the original Panic! lineup shifted and eventually dwindled from four members to one over the course of 13 years — he’s surrounded himself with talented supporters.

Six of those creative collaborators — ”Horney Boys” Jesse Molloy, Erm Navarro, Chris Bautista, and Wicked Strings Kiara Ana, Leah Metzler, and Desiree Hazley — form a solid foundation for Panic!’s rock-forward sound. The musicians took to a darkened stage to play a few melodious measures before a spotlight illuminated Urie literally bursting from the stage floor, belting out the first few lyrics of new track, “(Fuck A) Silver Lining.” The spectacle succinctly captured the spirit of the night: pitch-perfect precision mixed with mind-boggling stage acrobatics.

From the time Panic! stormed the stage through the final confetti-filled encore, Urie flirted with fire, floated above the crowd on a flying piano, and performed one perfect signature backflip (nailing the landing, but more impressively, not missing a beat of “Miss Jackson,” which he was midway through performing). Somehow, all those physical feats paled in comparison to the multi-talented musician’s true skills. Urie has made a name for himself with a four-octave vocal range and mastery of several musical instruments. All that acoustic aptitude was on display and on point Tuesday night, as Urie hit impossibly high notes in songs like “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and “Golden Days,” and sprang from guitar to piano to drums throughout the night.

While Panic! is very much synonymous with Urie himself, he’s kept it a family affair, adopting touring members who bring as much enthusiasm and energy as their lead star. Guitarist Kenneth Harris and drummer Dan Pawlovich have returned from 2017’s Death of a Bachelor Tour, and recently added bassist Nicole Row seamlessly slipped in to round out the supporting band. Along with The Horney Boys and Wicked Strings, the musicians infused the night with their own palpable passion, effortlessly complementing Urie’s center stage showmanship, while maintaining their own star quality.   

(Michelle Konstantinovsky)

The set list ranged from old favorites (2005’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and “Casual Affair” made the cut ) to new tracks (“Hey Look Ma I Made It” and “King of the Clouds” from Pray for the Wicked). But interspersed through the set were iconic covers that were clearly influential in Urie’s artistic evolution, including Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which has remained a staple in Panic!’s act for several years. Since making his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots last year, Urie has also taken to paying tribute to the musical’s legendary songwriter, Cyndi Lauper, and displayed his devotion Tuesday with a colorful, electric performance of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

Opening acts Hayley Kiyoko and ARIZONA amped up the sold-out crowd with short but powerful sets. Both expressed gratitude to Panic! and to Urie specifically for his support and kindness, and those qualities were on full display during Panic!’s set — first when Urie walked the floor performing “Death of a Bachelor,” offering hugs and smiles to screaming fans, and then again during “Girls/Girls/Boys,” a song that’s been embraced as an equality anthem. A sea of fan-made rainbow hearts illuminated the arena as Urie adorned himself in Pride flags handed to him by eager front-row audience members. Throughout it all, Urie continuously told the crowd of mostly young adults and teens that each and every one of them was special and important — sentiments that were undeniably reciprocated in every way.

Panic! at the Disco returns to the Bay Area on Feb. 19, 2019, at ORACLE Arena.

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