Going from Broadway back to basketball arenas must feel completely natural to Brendon Urie, who returned to Target Center on Wednesday with his band Panic! at the Disco and brought the same showy yet sporty flair they’ve always delivered in town.
Urie’s crew has never been so popular, though.
Wednesday’s sold-out show was the biggest and most pandemonium-filled local Panic! gig to date. The 14,000 fans all jumped to their feet the moment the frontman popped up on stage to literally spark the opening song “Silver Lining.” And they never sat down.
Few bands have ridden out some leaner years and come back with as much momentum as this hyper-energetic Las Vegas pop-rock band. Specifically, Urie is the one with all the momentum.
Also the kickoff date for the band’s Pray for the Wicked Tour, Wednesday’s nearly two-hour performance vividly demonstrated why the stylish, champagne-bubbly 31-year-old frontman was able to survive several wholesale lineup changes within his group (he’s the lone original member), and to outlast all the early comparisons to mentor band Fall Out Boy.
Urie also showed Wednesday why he was able to land a starring role in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway last year. Performing on a giant, triangle-shaped proscenium stage with the Panic!-brand exclamation point on it, he lived up to that punctuation mark over and over.
He took the stage dressed like a circus ringleader and bounded around like a trapeze artist. He sang with nonstop intensity and quite uncanny range, hitting high notes in the second song “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” and many others that might shatter the glassy walls at U.S. Bank Stadium should his band play there next.
And if all that didn’t dazzle the crowd enough, Urie even levitated over the crowd mid-concert. He rode a baby-grand piano over the heads of fans as he sang “Dying in L.A.” and a little of Bonnie Raitt’s “If I Can’t Make You Love Me,” coming off like Liberace with a messiah complex (or more of one).
As unquestionably impressive Urie performed, he still couldn’t wipe away some of his band’s unintentional silliness, especially toward the show’s end.
The drum-off he had with his drummer on a second kit set up center stage before “King of the Clouds” was just-because-I-can superfluous, especially since we had no idea who the drummer was. (Urie never introduced his new bandmates). And as credible as he is to cover Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” after performing in her Broadway musical, it felt like an awkward, lazy distraction late in the set.
Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” however — which he wailed and nailed two songs before the encore — was a perfect fit for this concert. Some of the songs off the latest Panic! record, “Pray for the Wicked” are discernibly Queen-like in grandeur and power-balladry.
The best of the new batch was the giddily paced “High Hopes” and another window-rattler, “Say Amen (Saturday Night),” which preceded and pretty clearly outshone his band’s first megahit, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” On many levels, the band that recorded that 2005 hit and the singer who embodied it are vastly different and better today.