Dedicated fans trekked through hazardous weather conditions to join the party thrown by Panic! At the Disco on Tuesday night in Grand Rapids. (Review, photo gallery)
Even a blizzard wasn’t enough to stop most fans from packing Tuesday’s sold-out Panic! At The Disco show at Van Andel Arena.
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Despite extreme temperatures, there was scarcely an empty seat in the house, which will most likely be the case for the rest of the band’s “Pray for the Wicked” tour.
“They tried to persuade us to cancel tonight,” frontman Brendon Urie told the crowd. “But I said nah.”
Shortly after the two opening acts, Betty Who and Two Feet, a countdown appeared on the screen, and there was an almost tangible sense of anticipation running through the Grand Rapids venue. When the clock struck zero, Urie burst onto the stage through a trapdoor as the band rose slowly behind him, kicking off the night with “(F*** A) Silver Lining.”
Urie barely paused to take a breath during the nearly two-hour concert. He moved around in a frenzy, fast-paced and just as fun to watch as he was to listen to. Wild, impromptu falsetto runs frequently pushed him to the upper limits of his vocal register, but the singer was able to display impressive control over his voice as he darted around the stage.
PYROTECHNICS AND A BROADWAY FEEL
Sometimes the runs felt a bit excessive, but then again, excess isn’t something that’s ever out of place at a Panic! show. In fact, it feels essential. It was a theatrical performance, a captivating spectacle both visually and musically.
The whole thing wouldn’t have felt entirely out of place under Broadway lights, which makes sense considering Urie’s brief stint in the Broadway musical, “Kinky Boots,” in 2017. He seems intent on bringing that same flair to Panic’s live shows, with Las Vegas-inspired outfits and the onstage pyrotechnics during “Crazy = Genius.”
Every facet of the band’s diverse sound was on display. The horn section perfectly complemented “Dancing’s Not a Crime” and “High Hopes,” while the string instruments plucked out the first few notes of the band’s iconic breakout hit, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”
And while Urie, guitarist Mike Naran and bassist Nicole RowThere exhibited undeniable musical chemistry on stage, each band member shined brightest individually during a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was an exercise in replication, not artistic expression: The band took few creative liberties, but instead opted to recreate Queen’s timeless track note for note. Watching it all unfold live made it feel effortless, giving no indication of the countless hours of practice that undoubtedly went into perfecting the tribute to the great British rockers.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” wasn’t the only cover that made an appearance. The band also performed the titular track of the 2017 musical film, “The Greatest Showman,” which had Urie belting out “This is the greatest show” like a declaration for those who weren’t quite sure if it was or not.
During “Death of a Bachelor,” Urie waded through the crowd – stopping for a few selfies with ecstatic fans along the way – to a grand piano on a platform that hoisted him into the air. He started off with a rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which he introduced by saying it reminded him of home. That comment felt oddly bittersweet as he transitioned smoothly into “Dying In LA,” a ballad about moving away from home to pursue stardom, only to have one’s red carpet dreams collapse around them.
SOME NOSTALGIA, A SHOUT-OUT FOR ACCEPTANCE, TEARS OF JOY
A pleasant surprise came during “Girls/Girls/Boys,” as thousands of fans held up multi-colored paper hearts that were handed out before the show, part of a fan-made project created in the past couple years to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Wrapping himself in a pride flag, Urie took a moment to speak out.
“I want you to know if you’re having problems or being bullied for who you are, you are accepted here and you are a beautiful soul,” he said.
Throughout many lineup and stylistic changes over the years from pop-rock to emo to dance-punk, Tuesday’s show made it clear that Panic’s dedicated following has remained strong through its 15-year career.
The band stuck mostly to the newer material, but reached back into its catalog enough times to please longtime fans. “Nine in the Afternoon” was a callback to one of the band’s earliest hits, while “The Ballad Of Mona Lisa” thrust 2011 back into the limelight. It’s what many fans paid for, and they got more than a taste of that nostalgia. Everyone was all smiles by the end.
Urie thanked the audience profusely and expressed his gratitude for the dedication of fans as they prepared to step back out into the sub-zero evening.
“I’m crying,” he said. “Tears of joy.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Panic! at the Disco, Betty Who, Two Feet at Van Andel Arena
Photos by Anthony Norkus