Before Panic! At The Disco hit the stage for their sold-out show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, their long-time friend and touring companion Zack Hall popped out on stage to warn the crowd that he wasn’t going to bring the band on unless they backed up, made some space and stopped crushing the diehards at the front of the pit. That moment pretty much summarises the fact that those in attendance showed a dedication so fervent it became dangerous. Things that feel like a big deal, like getting to the front to touch mastermind frontman Brendon Urie’s hand, don’t necessarily stay that way once the show begins, though, and the competitive pit dissolved into a crowd of respectful revellers the second Urie commanded them to by stepping onstage.
It’s worth mentioning how impressive support outfit Tigertown were in engaging an audience that was impatiently awaiting their idol, managing to get them to uncross their arms and tap their feet in enjoyment rather than anticipation. They smashed through hits off their Lonely Cities EP and even threw in a little Michael Jackson, outpouring a pleasant mesh of synth pop and rock and receiving quite the cheer. What was most interesting was that, as is the case with Panic! At The Disco, they were playing light music to a crowd half enamoured only with the darker, as Panic!’s ability to have a foot in both mainstream and alternative camps drew a noticeable cross section of the heavy scene. And they pulled it off. Shout out to outstanding frontwoman Charlie Collins, whose night was topped off by the fact she got to celebrate a birthday with the thousands packed in.
Having noted the love shown for Tigertown, it was nothing compared to the reception garnered by Panic!. The venue promptly filled up until the air was sparse, and Urie’s every move was being watched and waited on by an adoring crowd. So good was the setlist of hits, which started with newbie ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ and moved through the outfit’s entire discography, that Urie didn’t even ask how the crowd was doing or feel the need to call them the best crowd ever until five or six songs in. It was about the music, not the excess, and even though smoke machines propelled confetti around and gold streamers made the room feel fucking royal during ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, it would have been just as special if it was just Urie and the band smashing it out without effects. If you went in expecting the best singer in pop rock’s vocals to blow you away, you would have been inarguably satisfied, with Urie whipping out an unparalleled range, even though it sometimes felt like he was playing with his songs, dropping in a showy high note wherever possible.
There’s a certain feeling that it seemed like the majority of the room was able to experience, or at least the percentage that had been around for a proportion of the thirteen years Urie celebrated being in the band for onstage. It was comparable to awe and nostalgia. Launching into ‘Time To Dance’, a track most will recall being a cut of their debut album ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’, it felt like it didn’t matter whether you were thirty or thirteen, the fans that grew up with Panic! At The Disco are all still jumping up and down with the same zeal as ten years ago. That nostalgia carried through ‘Nine In The Afternoon’ and obviously ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’, the latter the start of an encore Urie cockily refused to perform, rejecting the bullshit of walking on and offstage and fast-tracking also to ‘This Is Gospel’ and ‘Victorious’.
Even though there was an overwhelming fuse of past and present in the room for old fans, for someone, who had never seen Panic! before the experience was still overwhelmingly worthwhile. Whether value for the ticket purchase was found in participating on ‘Hallelujah’ to laughing at Urie saying that his knees “are like, ‘fuck you!’” every time he backflips on ‘Miss Jackson’, the show wasn’t lacking in the enthusiasm at risk of dropping off at this stage in the outfit’s lifespan. Kenny Harris’ guitar solo on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and the inclusion of brass instruments quashed the possibility of anyone name dropping old members (sorry Ryan Ross) and Urie dedicating ‘Girls/Girls/Boys’ to Donald Trump trying to fuck him over cemented Panic! as a band with their feet firmly planted in 2017.
Despite the venue being a sauna and a source of bruises and exhaustion, if you opened your eyes and put your hands in the air at the right times you would have recognised that there was no place a fan of music would rather be than in an audience to Panic! At The Disco at this point in their career. For new fans, it was a satisfying celebration of the music. For old fans, it was a chance to light a fire that may have burned out at some point, offering a renewal of belief in why Panic! At The Disco are the kings of pop rock without dispute. If you were witness to January’s premier party, you’ve had a damn good start to your year.
Photography by Britt Andrews