By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — For over a dozen years, Las Vegas-based group Panic! At the Disco has been delivering its ever-evolving music to a growing base of fans across the globe. Founded in 2004 by guitarist Ryan Ross and drummer Spencer Smith while still in high school, the band soon added bassist Brent Wilson and guitarist Brendon Urie (who soon stepped into the role of lead singer and frontman).
The quartet started out as a Blink-182 cover band, but was soon crafting it’s own pop-punk originals. Before they had even made it’s live debut, the group sent demos to Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz and ended up signed to his DecayDance Records imprint. The foursome worked on writing material as they waited to enter the studio until after all the members had graduated from high school before recording their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.
Recorded, mixed and mastered in less than a month for only $11,000, the album was split into two stylistically distinct halves. Earlier material that was written in Las Vegas was more dance-oriented, electronic indie rock that used synths and drum machines, while the second half was written in the studio and mixed modern rock with pop-minded influences from the Beatles and Queen. Though it had some detractors (Pitchfork savaged the album with a notoriously critical review), many praised the band’s ambition and sales took off on the strength of the single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”
The band’s follow-up Pretty. Odd. was released in 2008 and took another stylistic turn. Recorded at their home studio with additional orchestration added at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, the album embraced a throwback psychedelic baroque pop sound that nodded heavily to the Beatles, the Kinks and the Beach Boys. While not as commercially successful (the new direction would alienate a percentage of the band’s emo pop-punk following), the album garnered another round of positive reviews and praise for the bold change in style.
The band would undergo a seismic shift the following year with the departure of principle songwriter Ross and bassist Jon Walker (who had replaced Wilson in 2006) over creative differences. That pair would found new band the Young Veins while Urie and drummer Smith continued as Panic with Urie stepping into the role of leader. Recorded over the next two years at a variety of studios, Vices & Virtues would hearken back to the electro-rock of the band’s debut while still embracing some of the orchestrated pop elements of Pretty. Odd.
Panic would continue in a more dance/electronic direction on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! that evoked Kraftwerk and Italian electro-disco icon Giorgio Moroder. That effort would be the last with Smith as Urie firmly took the reins as the last founding member of the band.
On Panic’s latest salvo Death of a Bachelor, the singer channels both Queen’s late great singer Freddie Mercury and iconic crooner Frank Sinatra over a bombastic electronic pop. Debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts when it was released in January of last year, it marks the band’s highest charting album yet.
Urie and his crew of touring musicians have been presenting their spectacular, high-energy show ever since, packing theaters last spring before a co-headlining tour with Weezer last summer. The band returns to the Bay Area with the biggest round of “The Death of a Bachelor Tour” yet stopping at Oracle Arena Saturday night. They are joined by NYC indie-pop band Misterwives and likeminded LA outfit Saint Motel.
Panic! At the Disco
Saturday, March 25, 7 p.m. $29.50-$59.50