“Gotta temp of 103. No voice,” Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie tweeted less than an hour before his band’s set was to begin. “Still gonna have fun on stage tonight. Fuck a cancellation. Let's do this, Portland.”
Playing through a flu is a true testament to an artist's dedication. Many performers have run into much less and opted to reschedule; however, Urie depended on the energy of his fans and the adrenaline of the show to carry him through. And that decision came with many thanks from the nearly sold-out Moda Center.
Earlier in the night, the show kicked off with the first opening band, Saint Motel. The L.A. band has been taking Portland by storm the last few years, making appearances at multiple installations of KNRK’s December to Remember series as well as the radio station’s 20th Birthday Bash in 2015. There’s no question why Saint Motel is in such high demand as the outfit brings an outstanding amount of energy to their set. Backed by film and armed with brass, the band brought a large sound to the arena, playing upbeat tracks off their new album as well as old favorites, all accompanied by pieced together visuals from old movies, graphics and lyrics. It was a shot of energy to the fans coming in, a stepping stone to the larger productions soon to come.
MisterWives were quick to follow Saint Motel’s set with their own energetic and vibrant pop. Another outfit that has been gaining popularity, a fact we detailed two years ago in an article on their MFNW set, MisterWives now boasts a forthcoming sophomore release, and the NYC band continues their meteoric rise, taking their place on an arena stage. With bright production and lead singer Mandy Lee’s mesmerizing stage presence, MisterWives proved they could fully own a crowd of 20,000. By the end of their set, the audience were on their feet, singing and dancing along. It’s been said that MisterWives may be the heirs to the throne of No Doubt, and this may very well be true. It’s not hard to picture larger and larger crowds for MisterWives' sets in the future.
Stories of success seemed to be a pattern on the Death of a Bachelor tour. It was true of both opening bands, who only a few years ago were playing small venues, barely selling them out or just opening for other smaller names. Now, they’ve earned their spot on the bill of a massive tour, and proved themselves to thousands. The same case can be made for the night’s main act. Only last year, Panic! at the Disco shared a co-headlining spot with Weezer at Edgefield. Now, all on their own, they’ve helmed an arena and filled it up with a sea of their own fans. The pop punk band has been accumulating fans for 13 years, all leading up to this tour.
With Brendon Urie and the rest of Panic! ready to take the stage, a clock appeared on the arena's screens, counting down from 10 minutes to the dimming of the lights and a massive shriek from the audience.
Word of Urie’s tweet had spread across the venue, and many were curious and worried about the frontman’s health and ability to perform. How would the show stack up to other Panic! sets? Would he make it all the way through? Any worry was immediately dispelled as the band opened with an explosive performance of “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time.”
It was amazing how much Urie took his flu in stride. For those in the crowd who may not have heard the news, there was absolutely no way to tell Urie was any less than fully capable. Though his speaking voice may have rasped and his temperature may have soared, his vocals showed no restraint, hitting his signature falsetto with ease.
As Urie and his band tore through the set, the leading man fed off the energy in the room and put his all and more into his stage presence. As the time came in the set for Urie to nail the backflip that seems to be a central part of every Panic! set, I wondered if maybe he would opt out of the acrobatics due to his sickness. But he went through with it all, not missing a beat. Urie’s ability on stage was a true testament to the endurance of the human body. There was no sickness, it seemed, that couldn’t be fixed by a room full of support and a flood of adrenaline.
Urie may have shown the power of mind over matter with his ability to overcome a burning fever, but it was the crowd that night that displayed the power of love in their masses. Near the end of the 21-song set, the band laid out “Girls/Girls/Boys,” a track that has become an ode to the band’s LGBTQ fans, highlighting the fact that for us all: “Love is not a choice.” As the song began, lights came up throughout the crowd, illuminating a sea of colorful paper hearts, something that did not go unnoticed by the band.
“Hold those hearts up for me,” Urie asked the crowd at the end of the song. “That’s beautiful.” Fans cheered and waved their hearts in the air, as Urie looked out, moved by the display. “This simple act of love and affection is gonna beat all the hateful shit going around the world right now,” he said. “You guys are gonna fucking change the world.”
The arena erupted in cheers, united with love. Overcome with another burst of energy and support, the band launched into their acclaimed cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which earned the loudest applause of the night.
As the show came to a close, I couldn’t help but once again be blown away by Urie’s perseverance. In sickness and in health, Panic! at the Disco put their all into every show, and no mere fever was going to stop the force of nature that is this band. But perhaps Portland was lucky. Perhaps now, drained from a set and in need of rest, the band’s next show would be postponed.
“Just got a steroid shot in my ass,” Urie tweeted less than 48 hours later. “Can't wait to party w/ u Vegas!”
No matter what condition, Panic! at the Disco will never let down.