Last year, Brendon Urie’s Panic! at the Disco made their Portland arena debut at the Moda Center in support of their fifth studio album, Death of a Bachelor. Though Urie sported a 100-degree fever, he and his band pulled through for an unforgettable experience, with massive production, outstanding vocals and a completely packed house.
With the release of a brand new album, dubbed Pray for the Wicked, Panic! returned to the Moda Center on Sunday night, with support from pop sensation Hayley Kiyoko and New Jersey outfit ARIZONA. Tickets went quickly, and by the time the night of the show rolled around, almost every seat from the floor to the top of the nosebleeds was sold.
But could their last show be topped?
The seats inside the arena began to fill quickly, and the venue was already close to full when the night’s first opener took to the stage. ARIZONA’s chill, 80s-tinged pop proved to be a good lead in to the rest of the night; however, the trio’s energy just couldn’t come close to matching what was to follow.
Though this show marked Hayley Kiyoko’s first arena appearance in Portland, her presence has always been fit for a stage of its size. Her rise to the top in the past year alone has been staggering, with her openness about her sexuality and larger-than-life personality resonating well with the LGBTQ community. Her last stop in Portland brought her to the Wonder Ballroom for a sold-out headline set, and though this time around was merely as an opener, anyone could have believed that the arena was there for her alone.
Kiyoko's arrival came with the ultimate fanfare, the majority of the arena jumping to their feet. Throughout her set, her confidence in front of the crowd filled the room with energy, and her uniquely polished pop sound fit right in with massive size of the stage she occupied.
Kiyoko’s set came to a climax on the set closer, “Girls Like Girls,” an ode to her own sexual identity that has become a fan favorite and anthem for her LGBTQ fans. As Kiyoko jumped around stage, fans throughout the arena enthusiastically sang along, waving phone lights and rainbow flags high above their heads.
In every aspect of the set, Brendon Urie and his band stepped up their game since last year’s show. The production was huge, LED screens lining every wall of the stage, a triangular catwalk jutting out to the fans on the floor, and even more surprises in store as they got to work on their nearly 30-song setlist.
There are not many male performers in the pop and alternative rock field that can match Urie’s vocal range and stage presence. His vocals were sharp as ever, reaching every falsetto note with ease, and earning screams from the crowd in return. His energy on stage never once faltered for the two-hour set.
At one point, the frontman walked through the crowd singing the title track of the band’s album Death of a Bachelor. While maintaining the tune, he stopped for selfies, hugged fans and had quick conversations in the short instrumental breaks.
His stroll to the back of the floor brought him to a piano. As he sat down and began to play a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can't Make You Love Me,” the piano lifted up off the ground and floated above the floor, making its way back to the stage and giving the fans in the upper levels of the arena a front row view. Unharnessed, Urie leaned over the edge of the floating platform and waved to the fans below, continuing into a beautiful rendition of Pray for the Wicked track “Dying in LA.”
Only halfway through the set, it didn’t seem like the production or the beauty of the evening could be topped. But when Urie finally touched down on stage, it all only doubled.
Prior to the performance, paper hearts were left at each seat as part of a fan project, every section receiving a different color. These were to be used during the performance of "Girls/Girls/Boys." So as the opening notes rang out, phone lights went straight up, and with the paper hearts as filters for the lights, the arena was turned into a rainbow of pride and color.
Fans close to the stage on the floor threw pride flags on stage, many rainbow, and one or two the pink, yellow and blue of the pansexual flag. Urie retrieved every one of them, and slung them all over his shoulder, creating a thick coat of rainbow color.
With both Kiyoko and Urie’s sets, a message for the night was made clear. The Pray for the Wicked tour was not only a step up for Panic! at the Disco’s production, but the night proved to be a celebration of love and pride.
As Urie sings on “Girls/Girls/Boys,” love is not a choice. “And that’s absolutely true,” he said.