20 Dec 2018
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Gig Review: Panic! At The Disco @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 16/10/2018

18 Oct 2018 // A review by Trevor Faville

The backstory of Panic! At the Disco makes for some interesting questions when going to this show. From an objective perspective, the story of this band is an interesting one, to say the least. Brendon Uries’ contribution and vision has plainly come to dominate- and tracing the bands musical evolution (just following the history of the exclamation point, for example) makes for some genuine anticipatory curiosity, - what kind of gig is this going to be?

That question was answered right from the off- it was to be the Brendon Show, and he puts us in no doubt about that from the moment that he comes on stage. The presentation element is a key factor - the visuals are expertly conceived, seamlessly integrated into the performance, and are balanced to enhance rather than distract. An example being the 10-minute countdown to the gig on a big screen overlooking the stage - a simple idea, used to great effect.

For the first few songs there was a worry that it could have got too showbiz- there is a very powerful personality on display here, and he dominated the stage with big moves and huge vocals- but it became clear that this was all part of an expertly paced show. By the time they hit LA Devotee the band were warmed up, the audience were settled in (and calmed down) and everyone buckled down to work. This was the first real high point of the night. The delivery was tight, focused and razor sharp. Now is as good a time as any to note the work of Dan Pawlovich. Good drummers add (among much else) precision, groove and stylistic references. Throughout the entire show he contributed these elements with subtlety, musical taste and more than a little panache. All of the musicians were high quality-of course! But his was a powerful, and maybe less obvious, contribution. 

From this point the show was simply brilliant. As the music started to dominate over the production the Panic(!) team delivered sucker punch after punch after punch of musical moments from multiple angles. Nine in the Afternoon charmed in its Beatle-esque ways, Golden Days probably won the Biggest Chorus award of the night -from a very large field of contenders- and there were some clever and timely explorations of musical arranging at two key moments. Death of a Bachelor was a welcome change of pace and an interesting instrumentation, using backing track, solo voice and the brass section. Uries’ interaction with the brass is seamless, and one can only wonder why a classy rhythm section like Pawlovich and Nicole Row was left aside on this song in favour of a backing track- that could have been something really special. Later on, Urie took a solo spot on the piano and gave us a little burst of ‘If I could make you love me’, before segueing into Dying in LA during which the string section quietly appeared, prompting Urie to jump up on top of the piano to take the song home with just the strings backing him. This was a fabulous moment of musical showmanship and one can’t help but notice Uries’ exploring the concept of not using guitar or piano as the primary support instrument for a solo voice. In this arena, it's something of an interesting idea.

This is vocal music, after all, and there is no doubt in Brendon Urie’s vocal ability. He spent a great deal of time way above the staff in falsetto mood-high notes were everywhere. In terms of a display of singing skill (both in a technical and interpretive sense) this show was unquestionably out of the top drawer. This made the choice of doing a meticulous cover of Bohemian Rhapsody seem like something of an incongruous moment. No fault in the band's delivery - no fault at all, it was near note perfect, vocally and instrumentally- but it seemed like an odd choice because at this point in the show, Panic! At The Disco had nothing they had to prove. To anyone. By way of contrast the cover of Girls Just Want To Have Fun was a real treat by means of its unexpected appearance, and the bands’ reverential/ irreverent approach.

The last part of the show was completely in the “professional zone”, with renditions of some more big hits before a carefully managed false exit (they didn’t even say good night, but then, everyone knows the “there’s going to be an encore” ritual so well by now) and then an encore of regulation length. No-one could possibly have left disappointed, though. By the time the last notes of Rhapsody had died away, Panic! had done the job. Unquestionably. The final few songs were a case of (almost literally) preaching to the converted. This was a powerful show, intelligently structured, featuring an exceptionally strong vocals and performing from the Main Man, with effective visuals, and some finely considered musical moments.

 

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