Cassady Alberico, Staff Reporter
Before we begin: Why is it called the CHI Health Center? I don’t understand. The medical world is a necessary part of society, hospitals have to exist. You don’t really need to advertise them. No one thinks “Wow, my leg got cut off. Let’s go to CHI over all other hospitals because I saw their name on a giant box downtown!” No, that wouldn’t happen. You’re not gonna change your health center of choice based on venue advertising. A cable company like CenturyLink makes much more sense as the sponsor of a venue, they have something substantial to gain by having all concert-goers read those giant letters on the building.
These were the thoughts plagued me as I waited in the freezing temperatures outside the… sigh… CHI Health Center on Friday, February 1st. I was trying to get in to Panic! At the Disco, along with what felt like the entire city of Omaha. There were so many people, my inner claustrophobe wished other people didn’t also love Brendon Urie’s music. But I preserved, and eventually found my seat next to my two best friends. While our seats were in the back, once the show started I began to really like our placement. We were just off center of the stage on the second balcony, looking down at the stage with just enough asymmetry to make it interesting.
Speaking of interesting: the stage setup was fascinating! A narrow sliver of flat stage housed the band near the back, while Panic’s LA Devotee inspired logo housed most of the songs further downstage. Stage blocking was heavily used – Brendon and the various accompanists were constantly shifting to utilize different parts of the setup. I appreciated the balance of technical elements to musicality, it was the perfect blend of fog machine to singing for me.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s backtrack to the beginning. We’re sitting in our seats, and all of a sudden a bright ten minute timer pops on the stage screen. What a technique, telling us exactly how long we have to wait. The audience buzzed with excitement as the timer ticked down, counting along with the final 10 seconds. The lights went dark, and the crowd exploded with applause. After a moment, the lights returned to a full stage of band members – but no lead singer. A moment of confusion overtook me, before Brendon Urie himself jumped out of a hole in the middle of the stage, leaping straight into the chorus of Silver Lining. The audience ate this up and was immediately on their feet, singing and dancing along like true devotees. It was an opener chocked full of Greatest Showman-esque flair.
The hype continued with the next few songs, upbeat bops like Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time and LA Devotee. Once the crowd was in a sufficiently good mood, Urie finally addressed the audience directly. Heading around the stage and into the crowd, the superstar high fived and hugged audience members while singing Death of a Bachelor and making his way to the far side of the venue. A very suspicious black object that was hanging directly in front of our section began to lower to the ground. Urie uncovered the platform to reveal a beautiful snow white piano. Of course this platform raised once Urie began performing a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me and the masses once again went wild. The small circular platform began travelling back towards the stage as the piano accompaniment blended into the ballad Dying in LA.
It was this point, about halfway through the show that I realized how much of a true showman Brendon Urie is. He is not just a singer or musician, no, his form of art leaked into the theatrical. Part of the allure of this band is Brendon’s personality, it’s his sequined gold suit jacket and lighthearted choreography. Where some concerts are just venues for live music, Panic! turned the CHI into a veritable theatre, complete with technical effects and sprinkled with theatre magic.
Listening to the closing song, I thought about the positive message that had accompanied my night. I had celebrated the equality of love while looking out on a rainbow tinted crowd, cheered as Urie theorized on our purpose in the universe, danced like an idiot, and here I was screaming out the lyrics “All my friends we’re glorious, tonight we are victorious” I had gone in expecting a good night of upbeat music and I left feeling better about the human race. I appreciate Panic! At the Disco as a vessel for spreading positive living, cleverly disguised as hype music.