While Panic! at the Disco was inside the depths of American Airlines Center readying for their show Saturday night, parent-operated Ubers dropped kids off in minivan-sized quantities. Lines to enter the arena were dotted with plastic purses, scuffed Converse sneakers and excited smiles still partially obscured by braces.
A parents' lounge that led into one of the area’s bars formed a quiet refuge from the spectacle happening at all other entrances. Parents calmly checked their phones for the time and peeked inside their packs of cigarettes, quickly inventorying and rationing out the intervals at which they could be smoked before the well went dry.
Once the lines of fans made their way inside, they made a beeline for the selfie stations positioned at gate entrances, posing and then checking to make sure the result was perfectly captured. Lines were longer for the merch than the alcohol, shirts and flags and sweatpants a more valuable (and obtainable) item for the evening. Another impossibly long line was waiting for a chance to get close to the Beebo puppet, the puppet featured in the band’s “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” music video.
If the show wasn’t sold-out it was impossible to tell, with die-hard fans occupying the most nosebleed-inducing seats closer to the ceiling than the floor. Their eagerness to see Panic! bordered between eager and impatient, the crowd erupting every time a song from the band played on the screens in between acts.
A white 100 flashed on the screen that garnered a reaction so loud you would have mistakenly thought the band had taken the stage. People started craning their necks for an early glimpse of the band, standing, searching for any form in the darkness. As the numbers counted down, panels lowered on the raised stage, prompting the already-standing to shift their weight up onto their toes to get a better vantage point. By the time the countdown reached the final 10, no one was sitting, everyone ready to explode, primed by the most masterful entertainment foreplay possible.
At zero a six-piece orchestra rose from the stage, threes strings on one side, three brass on the opposite. Drummer Dan Pawlovich rose from the back center of the stage, seated at his kit and ready to play. Lead guitarist Kenneth Harris accompanied by bassist Nicole Row walked out and took their places in the still darkness. And when the crowd could take no more waiting, lead singer Brendon Urie popped from the stage, landed on his feet and didn't stop moving for two hours.
Panic! broke into their first song, “(Fuck A) Silver Lining,” as the screens behind them lit up in a Rorschach-esque array of flashing black images on a blinding white background. Urie swung his body around aggressively, leaning backward to hit piercing high notes to roars of approval. The whole scene sent a vibration coursing through your body, and you couldn’t tell how much was the sound waves and how much the contagious energy the crowd expelled.
Urie never stayed in the same place twice, springing almost unnaturally far from spot to spot. And rather than slow, he continued to increase the pace with songs like “LA Devotee.” As he belted out the lyrics over the punishingly fast drums, the relentless speed mounted, a lethal dose of adrenaline mainlining into the heart, the thump in your chest feeling like it’s always behind a beat, fighting to catch up to a pace it was never meant to meet.
There were no pauses or breaks for chit-chat; there were musical lunges for air before the next song started and the crowd cheered in recognition of the choice. A break was finally given when Urie rose from the middle of the stage seated at a piano to play “Nine in the Afternoon,” effectively breaking the arena in happiness.
Urie was and is an excellent showman. He has the kind of big personality you couldn’t imagine on a small stage — it needs an arena to breathe accordingly without being restricted. From when he went into the crowd to shake hands as he sang, to when he played on a piano suspended over the arena as a crane carried it back to the stage, Urie set out to create magic that night.
Urie’s a performer who has openly admitted to wanting to be the next Freddie Mercury, and it shows in every aspect of his persona. When he came out to perform the encore shirtless, you could imagine the 15-year-old Urie staring at a poster of Mercury and pining for his chance to re-create the moment.
It’s easier for the older in attendance to say Urie’s not the next Freddie Mercury or Mick Jagger — how could you even compare the performers, but when did Mercury or Jagger become who they were? When were they elevated from solid frontmen to musical legends to be treated with holy reverence? Regardless of the answer, on Saturday night, Urie was this crowd’s Mercury.
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There’s a thing about a packed stadium with music so intense that even if you weren’t a fan, if you were the parent who wandered from the parents' lounge in the empty hall that snakes around the interior, and heard the symbiotic exchange between the faithful and the band, you would be swept up in it. You would remember the band that brought out that same unabashed fervor.
There’s only so many rock stars still performing. Saturday night in Dallas one of the few left did.
"(Fuck A) Silver Lining"
"Don't Threaten Me with a Good Time"
"Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)"
"Hey Look Ma, I Made It"
"The Ballad of Mona Lisa"
"Nine in the Afternoon"
"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)
"King of the Clouds"
"Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen cover)
"Emperor's New Clothes"
"Say Amen (Saturday Night)"
"I Write Sins Not Tragedies"