Panic! At The Disco House of Blues June 15, 2011
Panic! At The Disco lead singer and main archtiect Brendan Urie comes from the ADHD generation, the one that got meds shoved down their throats. The strange byproduct of that generation, late Generation Yers, is that they all really have an affinity for expertly-crafted power-pop, almost to the point of the theatrical. Hello Glee, the resurgence of musical theater, and grand-scaled small-time Phil Spectors.
Which is funny considering that you would reasonably think that you would get spastic punk rock or metal from that set. These were kids who saw Andrew Lloyd Webber and Queen the way bands five to ten years earlier looked up to Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain.
When P!ATD hit teens in 2005, the band went in line with the emo-pop of the day, your My Chemical Romances and Fall Out Boys. Bassist Pete Wentz of the latter would sign them to his Decaydance label during the later salad days of emo-pop.
Instead of floundering and changing gears, P!ATD held fast and expanded the scope of their debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, and went to Abbey Road Studios to work on its follow-up, Pretty.Odd.
Pretty lofty, for a band that was already all over MTV and the Internet. and not exactly a tried and true tactic to get push more units, getting spacey and vintage, and to an extent more confusing, especially when you are dealing with a fickle audience.
That's where the band diverted off into territory that was hard to pin down for those of us music writers who wanted to pigeonhole them into a audio ghetto. Beatles fetishists? Beach Boys rips? A power-pop band playing a better hand than we thought? Maybe.
Wednesday night's 17-song set list showcased all that we see in the band, showing Urie to have the stage persona of a classic-Jim Carrey, with a batch of songs from the band's new album, Vices & Virtues, which are, to steal a line from a soup can, heartier and meatier.
"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" has a grown-up hook, jumping off from their usual baroque pop and putting the radio-rock sheen on full blast. Vices sees the band pulling back from the Kinks brink on Pretty and heaping big-budget guitars onto their skeleton, which they can pull of, but it doesn't seem entirely comfortable. Case in point, "Hurricane," from Vices.
The older material, the breakthroughs from Fever actually, benefits from the new heavy hand, and the Pretty stuff fares well. "Nine In The Afternoon" and the apparent marijuana love-song "That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed)" get the extra kick in the ass they needed.
The encore brought a spot-on cover of Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son," complete with smoked-out solos, the vocal harmonies, and all without one drip of irony. Well yeah, it's fun and ironic they aren't supposed to cover this one, but they sure as hell nailed the sucker.
Personal Bias: It's super-hard to convince people that P!ATD are actually talented hook and songwriters, but just like Kwai Chang Caine, we will more than likely go this one alone, roaming the land telling people at patio parties and bars our POV, until in 15 years when some kids at SXSW tell me that P!ATD is all they listen to. That and Jethro Tull.
The Crowd: A bunch of kids that looked like either Beavis or Butthead, male and female; biker dads on daughter concert duty, and younger fans loaded down with merch.
Overheard In the Crowd: "This shit is shit. This isn't like what I grew up with, you know like Les Claypool. Kurt Cobain. Mehtallcah. Yeah, my stepdaughter's in there somewhere going nuts," said the drunk mom to a shoeless man at the bar. You know that times are catching up with you when grunge-era ragers are now having to drag their broods to concerts.
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Random Notebook Dump: At most of the shows we have covered lately that attract young and untainted throngs, we have been seeing modeling agencies recruiting. False hopes and a concert? Or polite patronization? Or some sort of cult activity?
Wonderin' About: Why the nucleus of this band, Urie, hasn't branched into some sort of rock-opera or other musical territory on his own. Surely he has the chops to do so, and he can tell a story.