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Panic! at the Disco Preaches the ‘Gospel’ at New York Madison Square Garden Theater Show
Panic! continue to do what many of their mid-2000s competitors couldn’t -- grow up without becoming a nostalgia act.
In New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Tuesday, One Direction openers 5 Seconds of Summer were supposedly bringing back pop-punk. But the kids who came out to see Panic! at the Disco play the Theater at Madison Square Garden didn’t realize it had left.
Playing the all-important New York date of the This Is Gospel headlining tour, Panic!’s set took heavily from its first and last albums, as circling back to the high-BPM pop-rock of its early days has done the band well. After ten years of panicking (with and without the exclamation point) and losing all but one original member, one might doubt this band’s ability to pack the MSG theater, especially on a night when much bigger teen heartthrobs played across the river. But it sure helps when that one member is Brendon Urie, a frontman who can pull off synchronized, mid-song backflips and a totally non-embarrassing cover of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” with only three other musicians onstage to help him out.
But it’s certainly been a ride for Urie. “I remember the last time we played here, we did a circus tour,” he reminisced, after pointing out the band’s 10-year anniversary. Back then, the band was touring behind its wildly successful debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was primarily written and composed by guitarist Ryan Ross. Ross has since left the band, leaving Panic! essentially as a solo project for Urie, with drummer Spencer Smith taking a leave of absence.
As the Brendon Urie show, Panic! has done just fine. Their Madison Square Theater crowd wasn’t full of hangers-on from Fever but more likely teenaged fans who were won over by recent singles like “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Miss Jackson.” Or maybe they were won over by how Urie took off his shirt prior to the D’Angelo-inspired “Girls/Girls/Boys” and never put it on again.
But it’s impossible to call Panic! out for placing style over substance -- their histrionic dance-rock songs are impossibly infectious and Urie’s live vocals rival those of his good friends Patrick Stump and Hayley Williams, out on the Monumentour. His voice even held up after an impromptu, fan-requested run-through of “Positive Hardcore” (the band hadn’t done it in months), which meant tearing up his vocal cords with guttural screams 20 songs into the night. After that, closing with “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” -- to the evening’s most frenzied response -- seemed like a slam dunk.
Sure they’re still closing with their biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit, but eight of the ten songs off last year’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! were paraded out, and almost every one matched the momentum of the Fever standbys. The New York show proved that Panic! continue to do what many of their mid-2000s competitors couldn’t -- grow up without becoming a nostalgia act.
Here’s the set list from Panic!’s MSG show:
1. Vegas Lights
2. Time to Dance
3. The Ballad of Mona Lisa
4. The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage
5. Let’s Kill Tonight
7. Ready to Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)
8. Trade Mistakes
9. New Perspective
10. Casual Affair
11. Miss Jackson
12. Nine in the Afternoon
13. The End of All Things
14. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
15. Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off
17. But It’s Better If You Do
18. Collar Full
19. Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)
20. This Is Gospel
21. Positive Hardcore
22. I Write Sins Not Tragedies