Panic! At The Disco rocked Auckland’s Spark Arena last night as part of their Pray For The Wicked album tour with support from New Zealand power pop group Openside. Playing at least one song from every studio album, Panic! wowed the crowd with mesmerising backlighting/projector displays, insane energy and Brendon Urie’s slightly-supernatural vocal range. After selling out their Feb 2017 show within 90 minutes and having to upgrade to a larger venue, it’s no wonder Urie and his band were eager and ecstatic about their return on stage.
As the stage was slowly lit with a dark red tinge, Openside took to their positions one by one, each wearing the pastel coloured suit in their most recent music video, Character Flaws. They played a range of songs from their repertoire, one in particular was dedicated to the “rainbow crowd”, playing especially to anyone part of and/or supporting the LGBTQ community, another was a cover of Lean On by DJ Snake and Major Lazer. They also played what lead vocalist, Possum Plows, referred to as their “break up anthem”, No Going Back.
From the very first song it was clear that guitarist, PJ Shepherd, had the most energy and arguably the most talent displayed out of the quartet last night. Shepherd maintained an extremely high energy throughout their entire set... controlling the extra electronic sounds and sequencer while also physically playing accompaniment - switches between keys and guitar - and singing backing vocals. A particular highlight was when he jumped out onto one of the front amplifiers during a guitar solo and shredded it, taking everyone’s attention with him. While Possum had high energy throughout the sets entirety, she kept getting caught in the microphone lead! Harry Carter (bass) and George Powell (drums) were both equally as energetic but this slowly lessened until we arrived at the final song.
At 8:50pm a countdown read-out was displayed on the screen... counting down each second until Panic! At The Disco would take to the stage... this definitely created even more hype within the crowd. After his band took to the stage, a set of strings and brass instruments, regular drummer Spencer Smith, lead guitarist Mike Naran and bassist Nicole Row, Brendon Urie strutted out into a spotlight and opened with (Fuck A) Silver Lining from Pray For The Wicked. Wearing black leather jeans, a black t-shirt and a black blazer covered in sparkles, Brendon stole the crowd within the first few minutes because of his insane vocal ability and on stage charisma.
Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time from Death of A Bachelor was the next song and saw the band accompaniments' first coordinated dancing of the evening, every move was in sync, large enough to be noticed but not enough to steal attention - regardless of the fact that there are very few things that could've taken our attention away from Brendon's vocals!
Urie made it look incredibly easy when hitting his first high note in chest voice during his second song. Ready To Go from Vices And Virtues had my favourite 'big high note' of the whole evening. Not only did he hold it for and impressive duration but he just kept stepping up, singing an even higher note than the last until he eventually ran out of breath but still closed off the note successfully. The strobe light, high speed arpeggios from the strings and busy background animations also added to the triumph of Urie's vocal section.
The song that followed was, "Hey Look Ma, I Made It" from Pray For The Wicked which Brendon introduced, "I wrote this one for my Mama". This song was a particular highlight of the evening for me. Not only was there another round of an exceptional vocal range display but it was accompanied by a bit of emotional connection. Urie's exceptionally high energy meant that one man alone occupied an entire stage. It was incredible to watch.
Between each song was a blackout accompanied by an instrumental track to fill the sound while Brendon takes a sip of water and a moment to relax for about 10 seconds or so, before smashing through the next song, which I respect. When you're burning so much energy and hitting ridiculously long notes, you need to stop and refuel. What I wasn't so keen on was the track playing to fill the blackout. It felt out of place and was frankly, unneeded. We would've been just as happy either sitting in silence or live accompaniment to fill it.
L.A Devotee and Hallelujah from Death of A Bachelor and Mona Lisa from Vices and Virtues showcased more of his lower register before moving to the piano for Nine In The Afternoon from Pretty. Odd. Undoubtedly an impressive performance and a crowd favourite. Only point I have to make here is that the mic stand was awkwardly placed in front of him rather than between him and the backline and Brendon seemed sort of distracted by this. It placed a sort of barrier between us and Brendon, but the crowd didn't seem phased by it at all, his vocals and performance ability carries us through.
Returning to solely vocals for Golden Days from Death of A Bachelor and Casual Affair from Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die! Casual Affair had an echo/tremolo effect attached exclusively on his higher vocals which was super effective and sounded awesome. I imagine they managed to achieve this because Urie can so easily switch between high frequencies and low frequencies. Vegas Lights and Dancing's Not A Crime paid more attention to Urie's character and personality. These songs saw him introduce a cheeky shimmer into his dance routine, briefly doing the infamous Fortnite dance and a lot more sass.
Brendon picked up the guitar for This Is Gospel switching back and fourth between lead and rhythm, showing off even more of his skills as if we needed more convincing of his musicianship. He also shared an incredible moment in this song with Row and Naran where they were set up in a circle and jamming, what felt like, live improvisation. It was wicked watching them shred their guitars as if no one was in the room.
Death Of A Bachelor saw Brendon on stage with just brass instruments for a groovy number which sounded awesome... so stripped back while still filling the sound, but then in the chorus I could hear a subtle guitar and very prominent drums but no other instruments on stage... Are backing tracks in live music becoming the new trend? Nonetheless, both Urie's and the brass section's energies made up for the backing track.
Migrating to the piano once again, this time on his own with the microphone stand moved to behind him, he thanked us for coming, "without you here this is just a soundcheck," which cued stadium-full laughter and applause before beginning his cover of Can't Make You Love Me, originally released in 1991 by Bonnie Raitt. Plenty have covered this song over the years but as the band slowly came back up on stage Urie made it his own by moving into his own song Dying In L.A halfway through. Then he gave us a classic rockstar moment by jumping on the piano, again followed by crazy applause.
The second tribute to the LGBTQ community of the evening was the song Girls / Girls /Boys, fans threw rainbow flags onto the stage and Urie wrapped them around his neck while singing to a crowd lit by rainbow coloured lights. He was incredibly grateful of our support and participation in the song and told the crowd, "if you disagree, go fuck yourself," which of course was well received by our New Zealand audience. Nicotine, a cover of Cindy Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, High Hopes and Miss Jackson gave us even more energy from Urie which seemed almost impossible, as well as real flames pulsating upwards from the stage and a flip off from the second tier stage?! Crazy.
King of The Clouds and Crazy = Genius saw gorgeous three part harmonies, super clean and timed perfectly. Absolutely wicked to listen to, especially before another big number; Bohemian Rhapsody a cover of Queen's 1975 anthem, a song they've been playing for years according to Urie. Naran and Row were up on the front corners of the apron for the crescendo's of the song, while Urie remained at the piano for the songs entirety. An excellent rendition of such an influential song.
The now routine blackout and Urie was back centre stage for Emperors New Clothes, Saturday Night and of course, the song that made them famous, I Write Sins Not Tragedies from their debut album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. This song was most certainly the number one song of the evening. With the original music video from 14 years ago, playing on the large screen, Urie's splurge of even more energy and utter happiness. It was an awesome moment to be apart of before the very last song.
Urie took his last conversation opportunity to tell the audience how everyone was number one as a result of the reproductive system. One last laugh and hoorah! Victorious was the last song of the evening... the last splurge of energy, insane vocals, confetti shooting into the mosh pit, an extremely eventful end to an insane evening.
Panic! At The Disco is a must see concert! Hands down! Not only did Urie never drop a note but he proved, not that he needed to, that he deserved to be up on that stage. Prior to going to see the show I was made aware that Brendon Urie supposedly has a 4 octave vocal range which I dismissed as just fan gossip. I was pleasantly shocked out of my seat at how high and low he can sing, how long he can hold the note and how clean and thick his vocals are.
Panic! played an absolutely mesmerising, captivating and wicked show, "See you soon Auckland!"; he better!
More highlights from the show can be found in the photo gallery further below.