Two things changed for me on Tuesday night after Panic at the Disco’s Ogden Theatre performance: My opinion of the band, and my respect for the power of a spitting-image cover of an uber-classic rock song.
By way of explanation: I will now never forget the visage of Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith’s pop sensation playing a smokin’ hot, perfect cover of Kansas’ classic rock mega-hit “Carry On Wayward Son” (this is a song that I’d long since tried to expunge from memory, if only for its saturated overplay through the last 35 years). Easily a set highlight, the cover showed Urie and Smith’s true love for guitar rock and over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll performance, to say nothing of their skills. It also proved that the song’s power to move, built into its seminal riffs and driving, explosive jamming, persists. It was the hundreds of teen-to-30-year-old heads banging to the tune, instinctively it seemed, that proved it to me.
This same group, just three or four songs earlier, stood still nearly to a person (save about five that I saw jumping and flailing) when the band performed an aptly chosen cover of the Smiths’ “Panic.” It was as if the audience was hearing a brand new song, not one they seemed to identify with. Curious –- especially considering Urie’s cloned Morrissey crooning style.
The rest of the hour-long set -– which followed an excruciatingly long break after the opening bands, made worse from the nearly stifling, stuffy heat in the Ogden — was a lesson in solid, power pop fun.
From early songs like “But It’s Better if You Do,” “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” and “Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off,” the band showed off Queen-worthy harmonies, wildly fun riff work and pounding, high BPM dance rhythms.
Then Urie announced that they’d “like to play a few songs from the new album,” “Vices & Virtues.” As they wandered through a list that included “Trade Mistakes,” “Hurricane” and “Always” (played acoustically and solo by Urie while the rest of the band took and altitude break), my opinion of the band’s latest direction changed. Outstanding live performance of mediocre recorded material can do that.
And then they played their “marijuana song,” the disappointing “That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed).” Drug references notwithstanding (or maybe with solid standing) this song couldn’t escape the drabness of a poorly executed, long lost Spin Doctors B-side (as horrifying as the prospect may be).
Fortunately they came back to the fore with the aforementioned cover of the Smiths’ “Panic,” and followed that with the super-hit “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” before leaving the stage. The Kansas cover was their first of two encore songs, and it was a perfect, eccentric the band’s short, sweltering set.
Quoleena Sbrocca is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Visit her website here.