Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Panic! At The Disco

This was one heck of an odd gig. If the Brixton Academy was sold out, why was there so much space inside? And why was it so easy to get to the bar?

The reason, of course, is that Panic! At The Disco have a fan base largely consiting of those who have only just passed puberty. In fact, tonight was a good night to be a part of the medical crew, as instead of the usual drink and drug casualties you were more likely to get the "My girlfriend's just dumped me and I'm SO depressed"/"I think I've just started my periods" crew. So vertically challenged were the audience, you could get a fair idea of what a gig in Munchkinland must be like.

Unfortunately for P!ATD, this adolescent adoration has been, in part, what has led to them being branded an 'emo' band. This is unfortunate and is something perpetrated by journalists too lazy to look beyond the band's dark clothing and black eyeliner and actually listen to the music, because there is far more self awareness and (more importantly) self esteem in a song like "London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines" than in the entire back catalogue of their mentors Fall Out Boy.

The band themselves seem to be painfully aware of their unsought reputation and go to extreme lengths to try and put it behind them. The stage set is a gothic, moonlit, windmill and surrounding fields, almost like the model of Paris at the start of Baz Luhrmann's 'Moulin Rouge'. Singer Brendan Urie is dressed like Oliver Twist after he found a wealthy family. Beside him, guitarist Ryan Ross is the Artful Dodger, complete with cap and scarf, whilst white makeup at least makes drummer Spencer Smith look old enough to be out after dark. Only bass player Jon Walker eschews the fancy dress. Throw in three dancers performing bizarre routines in heavy makeup and very few clothes and you are left with a visual spectacle far removed from anything currently available.

The only problem with all of this is that, entertaining though it may be (and hey, half this audience have probably never seen a woman in her underwear before), it puts enormous pressure on the band and crew to get the basics right. For a lot of the time the sound is muddy, whilst the band themselves get carried away and play too fast at times. During "It's Better If You Do" they spend so much time clowning around with the dancers that the song itself almost collapses into chaos. All of this is a shame, because the band themselves are clearly talented and more than capable of reproducing the dense, almost orchestral, sound of debut album "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out". Urie has a fine vocal range, but all too often his voice distorts in the poor sound mix, whilst Ross' backing vocals are at times almost inaudible.

None of this, of course, matters to the vast majority of the audience. They came to see their new heroes, to dance, to crowd surf and to sing themselves hoarse. P!ATD gave them exactly what they want, and more.


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