MANCHESTER — A technical glitch temporarily shut down Panic at the Disco’s sold-out concert Sunday night at the SNHU Arena, but for many fans it seemed like just one more twist in a show packed with surprises.
The band was two dozen songs into the concert, and singer Brendon Urie, manning a black piano at center stage, was in the midst of his rendition of Queen’s rock-opera classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” when the sound cut out.
Without missing a beat, the crowd jumped in to chant the rest of the iconic song, and Urie went into ad-lib mode. After a failed attempt to communicate with fans through a bullhorn, Urie shrugged and offered an impromptu, shirtless handstand before putting a finger up to his mouth and miming “shhhhhhh” to the cheering crowd.
More than 9,000 thousand fans obliged, and the arena went pin-drop still, giving Urie a chance to give one of those sly grins and yell, “I’ll be right back!” — and then do a mock sprint off stage and into the wings to get some answers.
The problem was a band issue at the sound console, SNHU Arena’s assistant general manager Jason Perry said on Monday.
After a handful of minutes, Urie was back on stage, presiding over ever-shifting spotlights like the gleeful ring master he introduced in the music video of Panic’s break-out 2005 hit “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” Fittingly, the high-energy show ended with the band’s rousing anthem “Victorious.”
The stellar stage design and special effects for this second leg of the “Pray for the Wicked” tour played a big role in the show, helping to make each song seem like an individual act in a Broadway mashup of eras, music genres and attitudes, from the brass-driven speakeasy vibe of “Roaring 20s” to the Sinatra-esque “Death of a Bachelor,” sung by Urie as he waded through the crowd and doled out hugs.
The main stage shape mirrored the insignia on the new Panic album, a triangle with symbols at the edges and overlaid within a circle with an exclamation point at the center. Jetting flames and billowing fog added atmospheric tension. Enormous vertical panels stretched along the back and also angled over the stage, and the constantly flashing images not only framed the musicians but punctuated song lyrics, moods and messages.
The action was everywhere, from moving stage pieces that delivered or spirited away musicians (a string trio and a brass section) through the flooring to the suspended and moving white piano Urie plays for a rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
Like a circus barker drawing crowds beneath the big top, Urie is the charismatic frontman, totally in his element and ready to draw your attention to the next spectacle. One highlight of the night was the band’s rafter-raising take on “The Greatest Show” (a track included on the new companion album to the Hugh Jackman musical movie, alongside tunes by Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Zac Brown Band, Kesha and more). Urie, with his signature upper range, builds the sense of achieving the impossible right up to the last sky-high note.
Urie’s knack for writing and telling stories endears him to fans who identify with his eclectic mix of vulnerability and tearful gratitude on one hand and the triumphant swagger and fist-raising nod to success on the other. The music often is about keeping the faith, but his church recognizes the good, the saucy and the hopeful in everyone.
In the Manchester show, Panic unveiled its live performance of “One of the Drunks,” from “Pray for the Wicked.” Pulling the crowd into the disorienting sense of inebriation, distorted images flashed on all the screens, and the pounding drums drove home the inevitable day-after hangover headache.
Urie hit another high note with the blockbuster hit “High Hopes,” about heeding mama’s advice to dream big. He got a big reaction from the crowd with the line “They say it’s all been done, but they haven’t seen the best of me.”
Another noteworthy moment of the night came when the band performed “Girls/Girls/Boys,” a song about a love triangle and sexual orientation that includes the lyric “Love is Not a Choice.” Urie donned a multicolored flag given to him by a fan, the stage lighting took on a rainbow effect, and many concert-goers, each of whom arrived at their seat to find a cut-out paper heart, held them against flashlights or cell phone app to create a swaying sea of colors across the arena as confetti dropped from the rafters.
(By this time in the show, a minor hiccup with the confetti had been addressed. At the start of the show, too much of the stuff was landing on the stage with each confetti drop, making it slippery for the always-dancing Urie. But thanks to a member of the crew armed with a leaf blower, the stage was regularly whisked free of confetti paper throughout the night.)
Urie’s theatrical flair also played well in 2017 when he appeared in Cyndi Lauper’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” as a shoe factory owner who teams up with drag queen Lola to craft some spunky footwear and revive the business.