Panic! At The Disco Brings Reinvigorated Sound To A Sold-Out Toyota Center

Vocalist Brendon Urie and P!ATD's horn section
Vocalist Brendon Urie and P!ATD's horn section Photo by Matthew Keever
Panic! at the Disco
Toyota Center
August 3, 2018

It may be hard to believe for those of us who remember their humble beginnings, but Panic! at the Disco is bigger now than they’ve ever been. In fact, the emo outfit from Las Vegas that formed as a blink-182 cover band has outgrown an entire genre.

Fresh off the release of their chart-topping sixth studio album, Panic! brought their Pray for the Wicked tour to a sold-out Toyota Center Friday night. It was there that vocalist Brendon Urie, the group’s only remaining original member, made his musical stance clear: He ain't looking back.

Two of Panic's earliest hits - “Nine in the Afternoon” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies" - made their way into the set, but they weren’t the focal points of the evening. Honestly, the fervor with which the frontman performed just about every other tune made it seem as though he would have been content to omit anything released before 2008.

Urie eschewed his emo footing to focus on newer material, specifically tracks from his last two records, both of which debuted atop the Billboard 200 and have sold more than a million units combined. 2016's Death of a Bachelor saw the vocalist leaning his artistry toward the likes of Michael Bublé and Frank Sinatra, and his latest album pushed him even further in that direction.

Elements of rock-and-roll remain present in Panic!’s music - the short guitar solo from “Casual Affair” and the intro to “Nicotine” were both well received Thursday night - but fans were most excited for the poppier tunes such as “(Fuck A) Silver Lining,” “LA Devotee” and “Say Amen (Saturday Night).”

Despite the absence of any other founding members, Urie still paid reverence to his former bandmates with a performance of "This Is Gospel." The song, which speaks of addiction and recovery, was written when drummer Spence Smith decided to leave Panic! to focus on his sobriety.

Urie later implored everyone in the crowd to be themselves before performing the LGBTQ anthem "Girls/Girls/Boys." Shortly afterward, he treated fans to a brief impression of Cyndi Laupner before covering "Girls Just Want To Have Fun."

His drum solo and accompanying backflip notwithstanding, the most impressive part of the evening was the band's cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which has become a staple of Panic!'s live performances in recent years.

What makes their cover so great is that it remains true to the original. Urie showed great deference to the track and told the crowd that he only wishes he had written it himself. He recognized the track's importance and was content to perform a faithful rendition, without any embellishments.

Judging by Urie’s performance and the crowd’s rabid response, Panic! at the Disco's star may still be rising. As a longtime fan, part of me misses the band's former sound; as a general fan of music, however, I'm continually impressed with Urie's ability to adapt, grow and thrive as an artist. His music has reached a new set of ears, and another generation of youngsters is connecting with his lyrics, and that's a pretty special accomplishment.

Playing sold-out arenas is just a bonus.

(Fuck A) Silver Lining
Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time
Ready To Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)
He Look Ma, I Made It
LA Devotee
The Ballad Of Mona Lisa
Nine In The Afternoon
Golden Days
Casual Affair
Vegas Lights
Dancing's Not A Crime
This Is Gospel
Death Of A Bachelor
I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)
Dying In LA
Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper cover)
High Hopes
Miss Jackson
Drum Solo
King Of The Clouds
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
Emperor's New Clothes
Say Amen (Saturday Night)
I Write Sins Not Tragedies
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever