Thursday, March 30, 2017

Concert review: Panic! at the Disco, Saint Motel, MisterWives in Los Angeles

photo: Matt Masin
Brendon Urie crafts catchy tunes with a flair for the ultra-dramatic. On Tuesday at The Forum, the most memorable moments came when Panic! at the Disco’s magnetic front man tones things down a bit and played piano.

Since last year, the band has been touring steadily for 2016’s solid “Death of a Bachelor,” on which Urie played a bulk of the instruments. It debuted atop Billboard’s album chart and spawned four hits at rock and alternative radio.

Although Urie got sick last week, required a steroid shot and ironically did the opposite of 2005 debut CD title “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” he sounded no worse for wear in Inglewood.

Featuring a towering stage set (the best I’ve seen at an arena lately), the place was packed and predominantly filled with teenage girls and young women. Many of them shrieked and sang along loudly throughout the evening.

Right before the 90-minute show started, a countdown clock stirred up everyone’s excitement. Then the B-52’s guitar riff to “Rock Lobster” signaled a vibrant “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” (Panic! samples the 1979 tune; soon after, Urie sang about that era on the powerful “Golden Days”).

A frenetic “LA Devotee,” about the allure of Los Angeles, was the second of eight songs performed from “Bachelor” and enlivened by two horn players. As church images were projected on the screens during “Hallelujah,” some fans raised their arms as if they were actually at a service.

Urie’s first piano excursion came amid the baroque pop of “Nine in the Afternoon,” an early highlight. Following a truly incendiary “Miss Jackson” (complete with fire plumes), Urie’s warped humor came through via a nightmare video scenario featuring early Panic! benefactor Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. Suddenly the singer appeared at the back of the venue on an elevated white piano for a stark “This is Gospel.”

Recalling his childhood in Las Vegas, Urie talked about how his parents put on records as the kids did their chores and that’s when Urie became enamored with Billy Joel. Urie sat behind a black grand piano for a credible, faithful cover of “Movin’ Out.”

The swing-leaning “Crazy=Genius” featured a manic delivery by Urie, as he sang about Brian Wilson and math equations floated across the screens. An electronic-tinged “Let’s Kill Tonight” saw Urie ably take over drum duties and continue as Bruno Mars and Rihanna tunes played.

Yet the show’s defining moment came when Urie paid tribute to the LGBT community on a propulsive “Girls/Girls/Boys.” As he sang “love is not a choice,” images of pride marches, entertainers and icons of the equality movement such as Elton John, George Michael, Ellen DeGeneres and Harvey Milk flashed on the screens. Concertgoers illuminated multi-colored hearts with their cellphones. Urie held up a pride flag and a girl in my section was draped in another. Afterward, the singer said, “What you do inspires me. This display of love matters.”

Urie introduced the next song as by “one of my favorite gay human beings,” before channeling the late Freddie Mercury on the perfect, Panic! concert staple cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with video effects (a recorded version is on 2016’s “Suicide Squad” soundtrack). There, as during previous tunes, Urie put his falsetto to good use.

Toward the end, Panic! did its early and most successful hit “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” Urie sang the rapid-fire verses with vigor and got a wildly enthusiastic response.

Misterwives did a buoyant 45-minute opening set that was very well received. The NYC-based alt-pop band was a joy to watch, especially firebrand singer Mandy Lee, who was clad in a mini fur coat. The musicians never stood still and occasionally did synchronized moves. They previewed some tracks from their forthcoming sophomore album “Connect the Dots,” due in May; the contemplative, tropical rhythms of “Drummer Boy” and haunting dub-influenced solidarity song “Oh Love” fared best. Meanwhile, “Imagination Infatuation” was a frothy delight and spirited minor hit “Our Own House” – with a percussion solo – recalled prime No Doubt.

Saint Motel had no trouble attracting attention from early arrivals with its fun half-hour set. Wisely utilizing live horns like its tour mates, the L.A. alt-pop group impressed from the start with the alluring “Cold Cold Man.” Images and sounds from the golden age of TV were wisely tied into the concept of stellar latest album “saintmotelevision.” Among the standouts: “Sweet Talk,” where A/J Jackson’s billowy vocals soared; the infectious dance of recent hit “Move”; a fast and jazzy, sax-driven “Destroyer” and the slinky grove of 2014 international hit “My Type.”

My review originally appeared at

No comments: