Panic! At The Disco

support The Sounds + The Drive By Argument
author PP date 22/10/06 venue Brixton Academy, London, UK

How exactly Panic! At The Disco skyrocketed past all RnB, hip hop and pop acts into mainstream super stardom this quickly is incomprehensible. To sell out FIVE consecutive London dates in as big venue as Brixton Academy is incredible - it amounts to selling out the entire Wembley Stadium, or to almost 28,000 sold tickets. Though five shows in a row in the same city can take its toll on any band's motivation to perform at their best on each night, I still prefer it this way instead of buying hyper-overpriced tickets to see them at Wembley or Alexandra Palace or some other ridiculously oversized venue. At least this way, the relative intimacy between the crowd and the band can be reasonably well captured, which also showed on the faces of the fans before the show. Never before have I seen such genuine worship reaction from people in the Underground, near Brixton Academy or inside the venue than I saw today. It was nothing short of hysteria, as if everyone from ages 12 to 25 were all about to meet God in person. Some girls on the underground were repeating spasmic sentences to each other that made no sense and were shaking of excitement, while outside of the venue some post-puberty guys were almost fighting to get in sooner with desperate expressions on their faces, as if they wouldn't be able to make it on time for Panic! At The Disco. I kept staring at them and thinking "ok they are incredible on record but do you have to hype it THAT much?".

Little did I know what was awaiting during their set tonight, but before I touch on the headlining act, some space must be reserved for the two support acts The Drive By Argument and The Sounds. The aforementioned was first on stage, and by golly, played the most uninspiring, unoriginal set I've ever seen. Not only did the band look as if they were nailed to the ground, taking all energy away from their otherwise relatively fast disco pop punk songs, but they did this while standing in front of a 5,000 strong crowd from which perhaps 12-15 people knew of the band at all. What an opportunity for the up and coming Scottish act to gain thousands of new fans, right? WRONG. There's no doubt in my mind that the band is trying to fast-track to success by copying Panic! At The Disco 100%. Some songs were almost note-by-note taken from "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out", only without the funkyness and instant-catchiness Panic! displays. Even their vocalist sounded 100% like Brendon Urie, the P!ATD front man, though without the funky rhythm changes and the self-ironic and witty lyrics. Just think of Panic! At The Disco without the catchy semi-acoustic riff of "The only Difference Between Martyrdom..." and without the swift vocal rhythm changes in "London Beckoned Songs.." and you have The Drive By Argument, standing still on stage sounding note-by-note as if they are aping Panic! At The Disco. They had the disco beats too, but all too superficial to be taken seriously. The Drive By Argument - what does that even mean? Their sheer unoriginality inspired me do something: almost vomit.

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The Sounds from Sweden did, fortunately, much better than The Drive By Argument. The much less 'disco'-style rockers are fronted by the sexiest woman in rock, at least if tonight was anything to judge by. The blonde vocalist Maja Ivarsson was dressed up in a black ultra-revealing dress, which didn't spare visible skin, though the 'good' parts were covered in a secretive way that'd turn on even a gay guy. She kept doing stripper moves, revealing her underwear, lifting her legs and doing just about everything she could to be sure all guys at the venue had their eyes locked on her. This wasn't the only great part about their show though, as their music was far, far more original than that of The Drive By Arugment, and while it perhaps wasn't as aligned with the headlining act today, they still put on a show worth rating high. If I told you to imagine the all-girl rockers NU together with Courtney Love's Hole (the band, you dirty man), that's how Maja sounded like. The songs were solid pop punk with slight discoteque influences, and it would be impossible to map them onto Sweden without prior knowledge of the band. I'd go again just to see the vocalist..

The Sounds vocalist Maja Ivarsson really wasn't joking when she said we were all in for a treat tonight. I don't think anyone in the crowd was ready for such scenery to be revealed when the curtains fell, the word spectacular wouldn't do justice to the setting on stage. Two trees? A WINDMILL? Diamond-like heading sparkling "Panic! At The Disco" on top of it all? A background that could've been painted by one of the most famous artists these days? Additional dancers performing the 'story' of the songs, as if it was all from Moulin' Rouge? Wow. It made Green Day and My Chemical Romance's stageshows seem amateurish: at all times, the stage was filled with an extra 2-5 lusty dancers dressed up in laced dresses, some almost naked some more covered up, dancing with each other, the band, and performing the strangest dance moves with king-size rubber bands tied around their hands and legs! Or what about the two Geisha-like dancers that floated about the stage, or a hot stripper wearing only underwear and a hat performing a lapdance on Brendon during "But It's Better If You Do"? If you've ever seen the Queen musical "We Will Rock You" - this was at the level of that, a full broadway musical with theatrical elements scattered all around the crystal clear, fantastic songs.

It's safe to say Panic! At The Disco raised the bar by a few thousand metres tonight for bands to come. Which other band, mainstream or not, do you know of who plays all of their best songs' modified extended versions live, PLUS perfect covers of Radiohead classic "Karma Police" and Smashing Pumpkin's "Tonight Tonight", all whilst surrounded by an act I would estimate to cost nearer to £30 grand PER NIGHT? Which brings me to my great criticism of tonights show. It was so spectacular, so wonderful and so 'nothing like you will ever see again' that more often than not, the set wasn't supplementing the music as much as the music was supplementing the set. It was all too easy to get lost into the magnificence of it all on stage that at times you missed entire songs because they blended into the background as just "background music", much in the same way as in many spectacular Hollywood movies. So it seems that Hollywood has arrived into the mainstream music scene, and the question is, is it for the better or worse? All I know is that while the show itself was fantastic and worth every penny of my hard earned money, it could've just as well been random muscicians on stage with playback and nobody would've noticed. In the end, I'm not sure if that's what I want from a live show instead of a band giving their 200%, jumping up and down, running across the scene displaying the kind of energy that keeps you shaking hours on after the gig, but each to his own.

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