If you'd have passed Uxbridge Road's tiny Bush Hall around 8.30am on Tuesday morning you might have wondered exactly what a line of teenager girls clad in black were doing hanging out. In scenes akin to the road behind the Astoria when a big American rock group were playing, these were the lucky few who managed to snap up tickets for a tiny gig by emo-favourites Panic! At the Disco. Whether it's a fall from grace or a warm up show for a forthcoming tour, the band sold out this show and a similarly sized one in New York in just an hour last month.
Not that the band seem to notice the venue's size. They strut on stage, clad in pseudo-1850s tailoring, frontman Brendon Urie apparently flown in straight from the set of There Will Be Blood. The 70 per cent of the crowd that appear to have actually bought tickets erupts; the other 30 per cent, tap furiously on their Blackberries.
The 30 per cent, though, is soon won over. From the very first bar of opener ‘The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage’, Urie is utterly transfixing. Gazing wide-eyed at the auditorium, contorting like a burlesque dancer mid-exorcism, he grips the crowd for a full hour. He is stunning – and my goodness, doesn’t he know it. Preening and cooing between songs, he only closes his mouth when it is impossible for him to be heard over the screams of pubescent girls.
Urie’s lyrics, already perhaps the most notable element of the records, take on a new colour live. It is suddenly not just the words that are important, but also the sound that those words make. All the talk of “causing a commotion on the gurney again” is, of course, ridiculously self-aware – but it is also fantastically rhythmic, casting Urie’s voice as an instrument in its own right.
The absence of original members Ryan Ross and Jon Walker casts a shadow over the performance. It is odd to watch Urie and co career through a set filled almost entirely with songs from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out – a record written mainly by Ross. Indeed, the lack of tracks from the forthcoming Vice and Virtue is notable – although new single ‘Mona Lisa’ makes significantly more sense live than on record.
Somehow though, the conspicuous deficiency of new material just doesn’t matter. Panic! At The Disco realise everyone is there to hear the first record. And, when those perfect pop songs are played with such delicious enthusiasm, who cares about new records?
By Josh Hall