Words by: Shain Shapiro
Panic! at the Disco :: 10.24.06 :: Brixton Academy :: London, UK
I feel old, like a chaperone forced to accompany a minor to a school dance of some sort. Yet, I am not old. I often get harangued when I complain about my age, or about the weakness in my knees. Tonight, however, I feel old. This is not a high school dance. Still, teenagers are dressed to impress in their emotionally hardcore blacks and anachronistic whites, and a proverbial must-get-to-second-base aura fills the smoky air. Having crossed the plate nearly a decade ago, I feel out of place - very out of place. My friend, who is several years older than me and leaning beside me in the over-sold Brixton Academy, only compounds the problem, as we are the only ones within a considerable distance old enough to be holding pint glasses - plastic pint glasses.
Panic! At The Disco
This is the final night of a sold-out, five-evening soiree at the expansive South London hotspot for Las Vegas' Panic! At The Disco, the venerable indie darlings who have made haste to the top of the charts by cynically commenting on the scene they command. Lyrically, they are crass, overly sarcastic, and extremely jocular. Musically, they are smarter than the lot as well, cleverly combining Vaudeville with art-punk, complete with Burlesque dancers, performance art, and a tree-lined set. Their debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, has been profusely drenching the mainstream since January, adding a small touch of class to the emo scene, a community based more on makeup and melodrama than rhythm and blues. I personally love the album and was curious to see how it would coagulate live, especially under the sails of thousands of screaming pubescent admirers. I still felt out of place. I forgot to adorn my cheekbones in black eyeliner, my belt was shamelessly not studded, and my parents were not picking me up after the show. None of those external variables mattered in the end, however, as after two lackluster support acts, Panic! At the Disco – buttressed by another keyboardist and cellist in addition to a slew of Burlesque dancers and Vaudevillian performers – pulled off their shtick in fine form, one emotionally hardcore melody after another.
After dropping the curtain and revealing a gorgeously anachronistic set design – dark boulevards, a Moulin Rouge-inspired banner adorning their moniker, and massive paper trees covered in lace – vocalist Brendan Urie emerged and began running through their recorded repertoire, including "The Only Difference Between Suicide and Martyrdom is Press Coverage" and "Lying Is The Best Thing a Girl Can Do With Her Clothes On." While the deviations from the studio versions were kept to a minimum, the instrumentation utilized and the consequent Burlesque show that followed suit throughout the songs electrified the Brixton Academy as the sextet laid down one sing-a-long chorus after another. In addition, standard cover versions of Radiohead's "Karma Police" and Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" were included as the twenty-somethings paid homage to their influences. Complete with a triage of vocal harmonizing, as bassist Jon Walker and guitarist Ryan Ross handled many of the complicated vocal duties alongside Urie, each song was impressively original, and the crowd lapped up each melody like it was relationship melodrama on MySpace.
Panic! At The Disco
Furthermore, every lyric, verse, and chorus was sung ebulliently by the sold-out contingent, regardless if each one knew how critical the libretto was on the community the fans' generally represented. Panic! At the Disco's songs attack Ritalin addiction, megalomania, teenage angst for the sake of teenage angst, and the expansive bullshit of emotional hardcore music, but the crowd, entranced in each passing melody, did not mind becoming proverbial caricatures of themselves through song. "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" and "The End," both songs critical of the scene the band represents, sounded even sweeter because the crowd was ensconced in literally making fun of themselves. Again, I felt old because I paid attention to such metaphorical observations, but it made the night even more lascivious. The Burlesque dancers helped as well.
Throughout their hour-long jaunt into irony and anachronism, Panic! At the Disco wielded enough sarcasm, hipster irony, and tasteful puns to rival any Live Journal or MySpace catfight. Plus each melody, rhythmic twist, and arrangement was tasteful, energetic, and climactic, exemplifying that behind the words, these lads can play the part as well. Not bad for a former Blink 182 cover band whose song titles are based almost entirely on Douglas Coupland and Chuck Palahniuk anecdotes.
Panic! At The Disco by Andy Stubbs
As my friend and I left the packed venue post-encore, we saw hoards of parents' mini-vans waiting alongside the cabs to pick up their little ones after their special night out. Again, I felt like a relic. Still, if this is what feeling ancient entails, I should take a more microscopic look at my RRSP.
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