Sunday night in Boston, as Las Vegas emo-pop heartthrobs Panic! at the Disco kicked off their latest U.S. tour behind their third album Vices & Virtues, frontman Brendon Urie gazed out into the sold-out crowd and uttered a line that entirely defied his nice-guy, squeaky clean image.
"If I see you after the show," said Urie, 24. "I'm going to fuck you. I don't even care if you want it." Judging by all of the ecstatic screams from fans of all genders, the rabid fans at the House of Blues wanted it, despite the mildly offensive come on. They wanted it badly.
But Panic! didn't always know what their audience wanted. They went through an identity crisis with their second album Pretty. Odd in 2008 when they took a detour into Beatles-esque melodies and abandoned the theatrical pop that earned them double-platinum sales for their debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. A year later, the band's two members pushing for '60s psych-pop -- guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker -- left to pursue their sound as the Young Veins, leaving Panic! as a duo who then recruited a pair of musician friends to fill the vacancies. Watching the crowd's reaction Sunday night, however, it's safe to say that the remaining half -- Urie and drummer Spencer Smith -- is what their audience wanted all along.
In a 17-song set, Panic! relied heavily on material from Fever and Vices, while only playing two songs from Pretty. Odd. Most of the set was dedicated to what they do best: taking innocent teenage emotions and turning them into baroque epics worthy of a blockbuster movie's climax.
The crowd went absolutely preteen crazy whenever the band played something from their debut -- the cameras were out in force for "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," and the girls threw their hands into the air to make hearts with their fingers for "Camisado." But the show's highlights came from Vices & Virtues: "Let's Kill Tonight" provided a grinding groove and ended with Urie and guitarist Ian Crawford furiously pounding away at a floor tom with four drumsticks. Urie's howls and shrieks were best-showcased on "The Ballad of Mona Lisa," while a solo acoustic "Always" provided some needed surprises.
The band, however, didn't play their latest release, "C'mon," a collaboration with the tour's opener fun., which seemed strange -- it would have created an interesting bridge between the two bands. Instead, fun. opened the night with a nine-song set that was highlighted by their catchy "All the Pretty Girls," from the band's 2009 debut Aim and Ignite, with frontman Nate Ruess overcoming his lack of vocal range with charisma, strutting across the stage like a young Mick Jagger.
Panic! rounded out the show with a couple of covers they'd been playing on the European leg of the tour -- faithful versions of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" which was played to blank stares, and Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son." The two songs are completely incongruous when normally placed beside each other -- and certainly older than the vast majority of those in attendance. But if you meld them together, you do get the wildly over-the-top pop laced with morbid undertones -- and that's just what Panic! fans want.