By: Lex Vegas
Everyone I talked to before seeing Panic! at the Disco at Nationwide Arena seemed incredulous that anyone was still interested in the band, let alone me, a classically trained metalhead. Having seen them before, I was hip to the fact that, despite what you may have heard, they’re fucking great.
I’ve seen P!ATD quite a few times actually, in a number of different cities, on a number of different tours, with a number of different lineups. But I’ve never once seen them put on a bad show, because Brendan Urie won’t let that happen.
The singer has always been captain of this ship, even when the band debuted as a theatrical emo-punk quartet 13 years ago while Urie was still in high school. Now that he has complete creative control and the kind of confidence that only comes with a decade-plus of killing capacity crowds worldwide, there’s just no stopping him.
Kicking in with the lead-off track from their most recent record, 2018’s air-tight "Pray For The Wicked," P!ATD had the entire arena boiling from the second Urie literally exploded out of a trap door in the middle of the stage, sparkling golden microphone in hand. They’ve finally reached the level of bombast befitting his Las Vegas heritage, fleshing out the core of the band with string and horn sections, an epilepsy-inducing laser light show and a stage shaped like a massive Illuminati pyramid reflecting the group’s current album aesthetic. Oh, and the most important ingredient: as much screaming millennial flesh as you could cram into Nationwide Arena.
A mammoth 28-song setlist followed, almost entirely based on their last three albums, which is, of course, when Urie’s takeover truly took form. He mostly stuck to letting his absolutely insane vocals shine, launching monster chorus after chorus across the arena with the help of 20,000 20-somethings on the verge of a collective panic attack. Occasionally his chiseled mug would pop up on the gargantuan LED screens, eliciting involuntary Beatlemania-esque squeals from smitten onlookers. Then he’d belt out a pitch-perfect note so high it would make Mariah Carey pack her bags, and those would even get a little squeal outta me.
While he doesn’t play an instrument for much of P!ATD's shows, Urie is also an extremely gifted musician, and every few songs a grand piano would rise up from the center of the stage, allowing him to show off a bit. Then he would meander to the back of the arena, shaking hands and kissing babies along the way, to a second grand that FLIES OVER THE CROWD WHILE HE BELTS A REBA MCENTIRE COVER, because why not. When he gets back to the main stage, a second drum set emerges and he solos on that for a while.
It was clear Urie was living out his childhood dream onstage, but what really mattered was that everyone in the building was having a good time. There were people around me who were actually having the best night of their lives, I don’t doubt it for a second.
“I didn’t have a dime, but I always had a vision,” so goes the chorus of "High Hopes," and I can vouch that it’s true. When I first saw the band a dozen years ago in a club with about six percent the capacity of Nationwide, it was obvious Urie had dreams bigger than his means would allow. I’m glad he’s finally getting to live out his dreams and taking a lot of happy people along for the ride.