“I’m way too old for this crowd”, I thought as I stood at the back of the venue. I had come to chaperone my daughter to this Panic! Concert at the forum in Kentish Town and took my place at the back of the room with the other dads.
That was six years ago. Now I was back for another Panic! concert. My daughter is here, next to me as we rock together in the middle of the crowd. I’m six years older and so is she. Now a young woman not a little girl, this will be our third Panic! Concert together.
We go to a lot of concerts together, but these are special; a band that she introduced me to on the daily school run. We’ve seen them in the small Kentish Town Forum, the bigger Alexandra Palace and now the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.
From that first concert, as I stood at the back, I realised we were witnessing a very real talent. Both the lead singer and main writer, and now only official member, Brendan Urie has the stage presence and vocal ability to match Freddie Mercury. That’s no small comparison but one I feel is worthy. His music is flamboyant and oftentimes personal without becoming melancholy and introspective. His stage shows are theatrical and high energy as he dances around the stage, slips behind the drum kit or plays the piano.
This show, the latest stop on their ‘Pray for the Wicked’ Tour was shaping up to be a classic. After the excellent support bands Arizona and MØ we were ready for the main event. A black and white timer started counting down the seconds, from 1000 to 1. The crowd’s excitement ratcheted higher with each passing minute.
As the clock ran out, the band rose from the middle of the stage. Then BOOM! Branden leapt into the air, taking us into (Fuck a) Silver Lining and onto ‘Don’t punish me with a good time’ and on through a mixture of new songs and old favourites.
For over an hour, dressed in black jeans and a gold glittery jacket Branded sang, spun and wiggled across the stage, flipping his golden microphone like a modern day gunslinger. A tight band kept pace with their lead man, leaving him to shine. The large projections delivered a continuing technicolour background to his songs.
As the pace slowed, a black grand piano rose from the centre stage.
A cover of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ segued into the beautiful ‘Dying in LA’ .
The piano lowered, Urie talked about his admiration for Hugh Jackman, leading us into ‘The Greatest Show’ his version of the Greatest Showman opener, complete with velvet curtain backdrops and carousel projections.
Girls/Girls/Boys promoted gender equality and inclusion. This was the time for the audience to shine their phone lights through the hearts, showing their support for #patdhearts . Draped in pride flags in front of a backdrop of love, Urie acknowledge those who might be bullied or marginalized. “You do belong,” he told the young crowd.
With the jacket off, we were back into more hits, stopping again for a drum solo. In place of the piano was now a drum kit – the lead singer was now the lead drummer showcasing yet more of his virtuosity. This drum riser also served as the platform for his legendary backflips. I remember seeing this on the first gig and thinking that was the moment that set him apart from the older bands I had been taking my daughter to.
Bohemian Rhapsody, a touring staple since long before the movie release had the entire crowd singing every word.
A finale of Say Amen (Saturday Night), I Write Sins Not Tragedies and Victorious ended what had been a fantastic non stop two and a bit hours of brilliance.