The year is 20GayTeen and fans turned out and turned up for their queer prince- Brendon Urie.
Pop icon Hayley Kiyoko opened the show, her brand of danceable and relatable music getting sections of the early audience out of their chairs. Known in internet circles as “Lesbian Jesus,” Kiyoko’s rise to fame was immediately explained in her live performance. She is unapologetic onstage and her music is an honest reflection of her experiences. By the time she hit “Curious,” the rainbow flags were waving and the room felt like one big accepting family.
A R I Z O N A (the band, not the state) is the biggest band you’ve never heard of. They have millions of listeners every month and it’s easy to see why. They have an alt-pop vibe in the vein of Imagine Dragons- all flash and little substance. Regardless, it wasn’t working for the crowd who largely stayed in their seats for the duration of the set. The band had a sweet moment when they lauded the efforts of the tour’s crew, who then promptly crashed the stage for the last song of the night.
“Hello you gorgeous bitches!” Urie addressed his adoring audience after starting the set by being launched from a platform under a catwalk shaped like the band’s most updated logo. The man is one of today’s most bombastic performers and his stage has only gotten bigger and more elaborate over the last 14 years.
Huge video screens counted down the 10-minute mark and the crowd’s screams filled a sold-out Gila River Arena. The band, including a full brass and string sections, rose from the floor, joined by guitarist Kenneth Harris, bassist Nicole Row and drummer Dan Pawlovich.
Urie launched into action with the first notes of “(Fuck A) Silver Lining,” his theatricality on full display. Panic stays away from the majority of their older material, sticking with the hits from their last three albums.
The crowd certainly got their money’s worth. The nearly 2-hour set was packed to the brim with every Panic hit and the deafening singing and screaming never wavered.
The kids (and make no mistake, the average age of the audience was younger than the band’s career) simply worshipped Urie and his stellar touring musicians. In turn, he basked in their adoration, with cheeky winks and dancing sending the girls and gays into a frenzy.
The hype really got going with the Dillon Francis-collab “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” (“This song is for my mom.”) and continued when Urie dusted off “Nine in the Afternoon,” played on a grand piano that, like the rest of the band, rose from under the stage.
He took a turn through the audience for “Death of a Bachelor,” meandering through the floor seats to shake hands, take selfies and cause general mayhem just from his proximity. He was then hoisted over the crowd on a pristine white baby grand for a beautiful rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “Dying in LA.”
The unofficial bisexual anthem was up next and the Pride flags came flying at the stage for Urie to drape himself in for “Girls/Girls/Boys.” This was the perfect segue for the second cover of the night- Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” inspired by Urie’s stint in Kinky Boots on Broadway.
A brash performance of “High Hopes” and a dramatic display of pyrotechnics for “Crazy=Genius” led the screaming audience into the final cover, Panic’s staple of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They’ve been performing it for years and Urie’s piano and vocal prowess really shine on the Queen classic.
Said Urie jokingly before the song, “I’m just mad I didn’t write it.”
Everyone knew the encore was coming but that didn’t stop the cheering. Once again, the band rose from the floor for “Say Amen (Saturday Night).” The brass and string trios brought the song to life and perfectly enhanced each orchestral track throughout the set.
It’s simultaneously very easy and incredibly difficult to imagine Panic! At the Disco existing for 14 years and Urie took a moment to thank his starstruck fans for supporting the music for so long. He jumped back into the crowd for “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” the song that started it all, and ended the night with a room-shaking “Victorious.”
The arena filled to the rafters with Urie’s astonishing falsetto and every fan left the show looking awestruck at the spectacle they’d just witnessed.
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos by Christopher Mark Photography