I stood on the train platform, awaiting the purple monster of a V/Line train to roll on up to me. It was as hot as I imagine it would be in hell, and I was already sweating my proverbial tits off. I was heading down to see Panic! at the Disco in Melbourne, organising where to meet up with the person who was selling me a ticket when all of a sudden a new message pops up for me – an offer of a review pass for tonight’s show. I take the offer up quicker than Pauline Hanson could call any tragic event an act of terrorism and hurriedly organise a photographer.
You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the whole train ride into the city.
I enter the sweltering mess that is Festival Hall to the luscious sounds of indie-poppers Tigertown. Fronted by the powerfully voiced Charlie Collins, the band already stood out in having a strong presence and commanding sound that filled the venue. Often times opening bands seem to fall by the wayside and get away with sounding less than appealing because they’re, well, they are the opening band. But here Tigertown sounded extremely on point and well in sync with one another, allowing the frequencies emitting from the stage to mould and bend together and wash over the crowds like a synthesizer-laden delight. ‘What You Do’ is a perfect example of this with its deep, ambient sound bed sounding just as beautiful as it does on record thanks to Alexi Collins working magic behind the keyboard.
That and the songs were in and of themselves great. They remind me of a mixture of Brisbane’s Cub Sport with their chirpy and bright guitars tones of Chris Collins and The 1975 with synthetic timbres being a focal point of their sound. It all blends together to create a wonderfully vivid and delightful quality that seems to be a staple of so many brilliant Australian artists. I had no knowledge of this band prior to tonight but rest assure, they’re now on my radar and should be on yours as well.
Half an hour later, the lights go down and the crowd goes into a frenzy of screaming and crying; it’s a cacophony of teenage voices filling the air to the very brim with sound. The band takes the stage, bar front man Brendon Urie, and the sound doubles in decibel level. Then, the man himself, old mate Brendon Urie walks into the limelight and the screams reach near catastrophic levels. For some, this is a moment that they have waited years for. It’s a moment in time that they’ve experienced only in their imagination. But here it is for real. And little did they know it would surpass all expectations.
Opening with ‘Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time’, the band waste no time in getting the party started. There’s a flurry of movement upon the stage as every member of the band utilises the space around them to fling their instruments and dance their arses off. All this energy seeps into the crowd, encouraging us to get even more involved. Though still a more docile crowd than some arena pop shows I’ve been to, there is still a heavy energy residing in the air. The song sounds monolithically huge yet they never feel overpowering, each instrument clear and distinguishable – a sheer miracle for this to happen at Festival Hall. I laugh at the irony of opening with this song: as a good time is exactly what we are all about to have.
I’m not too psyched on the follow up of ‘Vegas Lights’ as I never really vibed with the song but I’ll be damned if it didn’t sound goddamn mint live. The third song to grace our ears, however, is the iconic ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ and that is something I can definitely fuck with. Urie’s vocals are transcending throughout this song as he put those pipes to work, giving his high notes and falsettos a pretty damn good demonstration. ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ are just on a whole other level. Those choruses are out of this world. The former is just catchy as all hell and honestly, it would feel uncomfortable if you weren’t screaming the words and waving your arms in the air. There’s just something so infectious about the song that really shows live. And when the instrumentation fully hits you after the intro during ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, I physically recoiled. I remember hearing that song for the first time and thinking how massive the whole arrangement was. However, on subsequent listens I always felt let down. Not here. In this room, on this night I got exactly what I experience that first listen. And God was it satisfying!
‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ is another song I’ve never really been able to get into yet here, the song’s true colours really shown through and had me bopping and singing along by the second chorus. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say my heart much preferred and practically melted as the opening piano chords of ‘Nine In The Afternoon’ sounded across the Melbourne venue. Man, that song hasn’t aged a day in its eight-year life-cycle. It’s still as warm and wonderful as the first time I heard it and nothing beats seeing it live. That second verse where it’s all just staccato chords on the first beat hits hard tonight. That shit gets me every fucking time.
Next up was a bit of a doozie; it was their cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. I was a bit cautious of this one when I saw it on their setlist but I was willing to give it a try. And by that I mean it got to like, the second line and I was literally screaming the words. Everyone else was in the same boat. It’s such a popular, unifying song that it shifts the whole mood of the night into an even more electric one. I can physically feel the joy radiating from the people around me. The sing-a-longs are massive and spine-chilling as the band do justice to Freddy Mercury and co’s classic anthem. See, if there was a band that could pull this song off, it’s Panic! At The Disco. Urie’s vocals are just outstanding and some of the best out there, full fucking stop. Plus, the band as a whole are just incredibly tight and well-performed. Even though this incarnation of the band is a far and distant one from their ‘A Fever…’ era, they play as if they’ve shared the stage for the decades; as if they were of one singular mind all connected to one another.
Coming down from the high of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the band keep the vibe up with ease with the captivating tunes of ‘Crazy=Genius’ and ‘Miss Jackson’ before settling into the smooth, Frank Sinatra-meets-Beyoncé bop of ‘Death of a Bachelor’. Now, this would probably be a good time for me to mention the MOTHERFUCKING BRASS SECTION! Yeah, there was a goddamn brass section coming on and off for certain songs and there was no better example of this than the aforementioned track. They were note perfect in all their raw and untethered beauty and added so much to the song’s emotion and presence. Urie (once a-fucking-gain) made use of his incredible vocal range here, showing us just how goddamn talented he is as he smoothly glides between note after note, some of which are massive steps apart from each other. I usually HATE songs in C major but this is an exception. Certified barn-burner.
For me as well, it was so great to see the band sticking to their guns with the huge jazz influence on this record. They easily could’ve settled for backing tracks or just omitting that element altogether in favour of another guitar for depth but no; they went all out and I love seeing bands do that. The newer songs don’t get lost in translation from the record to the stage, and the new elements became amplified and perfected.
I gotta tell you, above every song of the night easily went to ‘L.A Devotee’. Holy shit that song is just something else. So simple yet so profound and well put together. Safe to say, I felt like losing my complete and utter shit during this banger but reserved myself for the safety of those around me and went with a humble grin and shrieking the lyrics. If my ears were correct, I’m almost certain the song had been treated to a key change down into D major as to help Urie’s vocals this far into the set. Either that or there was just a heightened sense of emotion and energy to the song but there was something truly new and amazing here that you just don’t get on the record.
It was at this point that Urie announced to the crowd “Fuck encores”, calling them “bullshit” and that we all know they’re stupid and a waste of time and they then went straight into ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’. Now, this is something I can get behind. Bands just getting the fuck on with it and not wasting time by heading off stage for a measly few minutes to smoke a ciggie and hype up the crowd. We’re already hyped by this point and just want some more tunes or interaction. A black stage isn’t all that exciting and we all know it. God bless Panic! At the Disco for this. Oh, and yeah, ‘I Write Sins, Not Tragedies’ was out of this world. I don’t even have to say. Everyone’s mum and their goddamn pet turtle who ran away knows this song and was singing along and getting down to it.
However, the follow-up, ‘This Is Gospel’, was spellbinding. That. Chorus. Holy shit. That chorus. Hearing five thousand people all scream in unison “If you love me let me go” was like some life-altering event. Dedicated to the band’s former drummer and long-time friend, Spencer Smith, there’s an emotional and personal weight to this track that everyone can resonate with. It’s an emotional and powerful song. It would’ve more than satisfied as the key end to the night but Panic! Had one more thing up their sleeve: ‘Victorious’.
An amazing light show, a spray of confetti and one of the biggest and most grand sing-a-longs of the night made this one a justified closer for an amazing set. I was unsure of how this would go down but my doubts were wiped away the second the opening chant blasted out of the PAs. Walking out of the venue into the cool night air, surrounded by thousands of adoring fans all smiling and vibrant, I remembered why I have loved this band so much for so long. Fronted by a vocal magician and made up of brilliantly proficient musicians who have embedded themselves in the family that is this band, they are a true wonder to behold. They sounded incredible, they had energy and life in their stage presence and knew exactly how to perform.
After tonight, I now know that Panic! At The Disco exist on a different level to most other bands.
Photos by the wonderful Maddie Bell who took on this daunting gig with only a couple hours notice.