Panic! At the Disco w/ fun.
Tuesday, May 24
Better than: Actually being 18 years old again.
The weather outside last night was stale, and there was no wind at all, so everyone brought with them into Terminal 5 a piece of the air. By the event of Panic! at the Disco’s arrival on stage, the heat was such that you could close your eyes and, environmentally, wait for a train. You could also wait for yourself or a version of yourself, which would arrive, given a particular song. The band’s first album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was released in 2005, when many members of the crowd at Terminal 5 last night were enduring high school; the songs the band revived from Fever and the reaction to them–excitement so heightened, it felt more like an entirely relived intensity–seemed to be both the band and the fans speaking across years to long-diminished shapes.
Openers fun. are functionally a trio–singer Nate Ruess, pianist/trumpeter Andrew Dost, and guitarist Jack Antonoff–though their touring incarnation amounts to at least six people casting dramatic, unbound pop music. The Format, Ruess’s previous band, were occasionally indebted to pop grandeur and, through it, the renewal of teenage pain. Dog Problems, their last record, had songs about girls and sex that were lifted by big horns and strings and were carried through distinct movements. fun. elaborates this, dragging terror and joy and some of the raw parts astride through a kind of crystalline bombast. The final song of their set, “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be),” traveled through a few forms–small piano figures, stately calypso–accumulating sound until it was a whole march of desperation. “I don’t fall in love, I just fake it,” Ruess sang, and something of the crowd was carried with him into the theatrical.
Then Panic! arrived. The only original members of the band who remain are singer/multi-instrumentalist Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith. Former guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker departed in 2009, disappeared into a kind of British mist similar to that of the second Panic! album, the Beatles pastiche Pretty. Odd. Last night’s set focused on Fever and the new Panic! record, Vices and Virtues; in this context the songs weren’t songs so much as they were centers of community, places to remingle with remote environments and emotions.
Urie had some great and permanent curve in his mouth that remade words as articulated bands of disdain, where Smith, the remote drummer, was a small presence. Velvet had been draped behind them and crushed into cave shapes. It was a contrast from the overcaked cabaret of the Fever-era shows, or the simple psychedelia of the Pretty. Odd. era; last night everything was performance, and the band worked in unadorned vests. It granted even the barest professionalism to Urie’s stage dive during “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.”
The guitarist for this tour, Ian Crawford, may have once endured the removed and thankless but also fundamentally unthankable work of cover bands; by his invocation Panic! teased out a brief cover of “Careless Whisper” until it lifted and unfolded into a whole interval of jamming, though, as determined by the song, soft and considered. It was the planned covers that displayed a cracking. Panic!’s version of The Smiths’ “Panic,” was curiously inert; their faithful take on “Carry on My Wayward Son” was more a tribute to the Guitar Hero franchise. “Without that game, I don’t think many people would know that song,” Urie said, maybe unaware of the classic rock out there in the dark of the radio, waiting for us all. Seconds before, in the same basic world, they had performed the Super Mario Bros. theme.
Surprisingly, the band made room in the set for “Nine in the Afternoon” and “That Green Gentlemen” from Pretty. Odd., the record from which Vices & Virtues was intended as a stark retreat. (They did not play “New Perspective,” from the Jennifer’s Body soundtrack, but that’s okay because I think it’s a Third Eye Blind song.) The new songs worked in subtle ways; they all essentially belong to the realm of really bright synth-pop–positive, open, full of little oscillations. But what resonated furiously were songs like “Camisado” and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage,” both from Fever, positioned at calculated moments throughout the show so as to suddenly, effortlessly rerender the crowd a society with a complete, shared knowledge. There was jumping. Feet missed the ground and met other shoes. A sort of invented nostalgia, but it did what it needed to.
Unfortunately, Urie’s stage banter was given to a sexist ruin that served only to displace and irritate. He is on a short list of people who should maybe reconsider this whole talking thing. “I’m not going to tell you I’m going to fuck you after the show,” Urie said. “I’m going to fuck you after the show. Just kidding.” He encouraged “naughty” behavior from the audience in front of cameras disposed to capture it all. The weather of the show was broken. I looked around and found myself suddenly among people my age, grown into an uncomfortable distance.
Critical bias: Spent a week in a hotel room when I was 16 with The Format’s Dog Problems feeling real bad, as one does with records. In lieu of that, fun.’s “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)” became a sort of armor.
Overheard: “I’m in survival mode.”–A girl to my right, on her phone, advancing through masses, brushing by one limb and inadvertently all of the limbs.
Additionally: “I got punched by this young girl.”–A middle-aged woman to my left who recounted “real” moshpits for me in terms of what remained of your index of teeth. Some of her co-workers were “around” for CBGB’s. We talked about blink-182.
Random notebook dump: Brendon Urie is going to scream again and I am going to wake up tomorrow with all my aural distinctions erased.