It only took one number for a fan to throw a black top hat onstage, where it landed at the feet of Brendon Urie. The fact that the vocalist/guitarist scarcely gave it a glance confirms what the Vegas foursome has tried to make very clear since the March release of sophomore effort Pretty. Odd., the removal of the black guyliner and the dropping of the infamous exclamation point: This is a whole new band.
Gone are the fire-breathing stilt walkers and troupe of woeful-mime dancers that defined the bombastic “Nothing Rhymes with Circus” tour. In their place: tapestry-like stage curtains, three thick Oriental rugs, three mic stands draped in wildflowers and strings of lights and a giant rear screen projecting images of various nature scenes. Beyond that, there wasn’t much more than the songs. Even the group’s stage patter, which has previously been painfully over-rehearsed, was chipper but minimal, though the members did seize several opportunities to remark how good it was to be home.
While the setlist included “classic” Panic tracks including “But It’s Better If You Do,” “Camisado,” “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage,” “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” and “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies,” an even mix of such newer fare as “She’s a Handsome Woman,” “Behind the Sea,” “That Green Gentleman,” “Folkin’ Around,” “Northern Downpour,” “Pas De Cheval” and encore closer “Mad As Rabbits” earned a similarly warm response.
Warm isn’t the same as ecstatic, however, and crowd participation seemed lacking compared to the over-the-big-top affairs of before. Though technically sold out, about a fourth of the mezzanine seats remained empty, and there was a noticeable lack of anything resembling crowd surfing. Not even bubble machines and Urie’s mention of this being his first time playing Vegas since he’d turned 21 could arouse all-too-familiar shrieks of total sensory ecstasy. A lower-key affair from a more mature band? Are we sure these guys are still from Vegas?
The bottom line: **1/2