Concert preview: Building a bigger, bolder Panic! at the Disco
July 31, 2014 12:00 AM
Alex R. Kirzhner
Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco -- "I just love seeing our new fans singing our new songs back to me."
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Panic! at the Disco has been through a few phases over its nine-year history, from embracing both emo/pop-punk and "Sgt. Pepper"-era Beatles-pop.
On the band's fourth album, "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!," the band from Vegas is pretty excited about what's happening right now on pop radio.
"I think it's a really exciting time for pop," says frontman Brendon Urie. "The fact that you can have a single from someone like Lorde that's just phenomenal. ... You have so many bands doing something different and it is inspired by pop music -- and hip-hop music. I think hip-hop is really exciting. You listen to one album, it sounds nothing like another album, but they're peers, they're contemporaries. It's really interesting to hear the no-rules rule, just being creative."
Panic! At the Disco
With: Walk the Moon, Magic Man.
Where: Stage AE, North Shore.
When: Doors at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Tickets: $35; www.ticketmaster.com.
With that in mind, the singer-guitarist, joined by drummer Spencer Smith and bassist/keyboardist Dallon Weekes, set out to make a more danceable record with a big downbeat but that also had some lyrical substance.
"A lot of the lyrics, actually all the lyrics," he says, "are about something very personal to me, something I went through growing up in Las Vegas, and some have more darker messages, so I wanted to have an uplifting chorus and a bigger sound. I was spending a lot of time going back and forth from where I lived in LA, and I was going to clubs with my wife and watching people dance and lose themselves in the moment, and I loved that idea and thought that's the way I want to be. I don't know why I tried to stiffen myself up over the years. I realize that being open and being free and dancing like no one watching is the way to be. That's the album I wanted to make."
From his vantage point, songs like "Vegas Lights," "Girls/Boys/Girls" and "Ms. Jackson" have injected something new into the live show.
"The energy is so different now in the best way possible. Most of the songs we play, the newer ones especially, are just high energy, faster, the big beat sound. And I just love seeing our new fans singing our new songs back to me. Where the song had this one meaning and having them singing it back changes it a little for me. It becomes our song rather than just a song I wrote."
There have been a few interesting experiences on this cycle, from touring with Fall Out Boy (whose Pete Wentz first signed the band to his Fueled by Ramen label in 2005) to bearing the brunt of the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church. That occurred after Mr. Urie did an interview speaking openly about bisexual experiences. Westboro did a version of the Panic song "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" as "You Love Sin What a Tragedy" and announced a picket of the band's show last week in Kansas City, Mo.
"Initially when they started threatening online and on Twitter, I was a little annoyed," he says, "but then I thought if they're going to be attention-seekers, we're going to turn it around and use it for something we want to do. We wanted to donate to a charity of our choosing, so we thought let's throw them into the mix. What would make them more angry than to get them on a campaign for human rights because they're so against it?"
Panic! announced it would donate $20 to the Human Rights Campaign for every protestor who showed up in Kansas City.
"They threatened us for two weeks and said, 'We're bringing everybody. We're picketing your whole show.' They sent 13 people and they only stayed for 20 minutes, just so the news would cover them."
Panic! donated $1,000 and also has a special T-shirt on its website to benefit the HRC.
A day later, Panic! was in Cleveland hanging with old friends at the Alternative Press' AP Music Awards, where Mr. Urie won for best male vocalist and paid tribute to one of his idols.
"I remember getting on the cover with our first lineup of the band," he says. "It's kind of crazy that it kind of came full circle that way. It was amazing to see bands from years ago that we toured on and off with. I honestly did not expect to win.
"My favorite part," he adds, "was that I got to perform a couple Frank Sinatra songs. I always wanted to do that and in a setting like that, which was like Warped Tour bands. That was cool to do. I'm a huge Sinatra lover. I have a tattoo of him on my arm, so to do Sinatra, that was mind-blowing for me."
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576.
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