Panic! At The Disco Party Hard In Return To The Stage

Despite funeral wreaths and other somber decorations, the band's first U.S. show in nearly 18 months was a celebration.

NEW YORK — The overall theme of Tuesday night's [artist id="3174078"]Panic! At The Disco[/artist] show seemed to be "Professor Layton and the Enchanted Entombment," with a sundry of funeral wreaths hung around the Bowery Ballroom (and onstage), candelabras resting atop tables in the VIP section and a gaggle of vaguely steampunk-y lords and ladies who dutifully milled about the audience (no word on whether they were on the Panic! payroll or simply, you know, teleported in from the future).

Needless to say, all of that was rather odd ... because while the mood inside the Bowery was anything but somber. The show marked Panic's first appearance on a U.S. stage in nearly 18 months, and their first in support of the upcoming Vices & Virtues album, and everyone — from the kids crowded together at the front of the stage to the parasol-clutching steampunk gals in the balcony — was ready to celebrate. Shoot, even Panic! were in the mood to party.

"Goddamn, I'm ready. I'm so ready!" frontman Brendon Urie shouted early in the set, to much squee-ing. And when he wrapped things up by declaring, "This has meant more than anything in the past two years," you got the feeling he meant it, because what fans saw in-between those two statements was a band finally bereft of internal conflict, lean and mean — even when they brought out a string section — and focused primarily on having a blast.

This meant that they infused older numbers — "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," "Camisado," "But It's Better If You Do" — with added punch, thanks in no small part to touring members Ian Crawford and Dallon Weekes, as well as Urie, who alternately pounded on his keyboard and vamped it up with shaking hips and pursed lips. Even the stuff from their Pretty. Odd. album — which, a few years down the road, appears more and more to be "the Ryan Ross record" — seemed somewhat livelier, as "That Green Gentleman" was infused with three-part harmonies, "Nine in the Afternoon" bounced along gleefully and the normally somber "Northern Downpour" eased along with a jangly sheen.

The hits — most notably "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" — were still hits, the crowd shouting along to every word. And even the new songs — first single "The Ballad of Mona Lisa," "Let's Kill Tonight" and the set-closing "Nearly Witches" — went off without a hitch, and gave fans a preview of where Panic! are headed with their new album (think lots of chippy Casios crashing headlong into chamber strings ... call it "Baroquetronica?"). For the encore, Panic! re-imagined "New Perspective," the only song they released during their Ross-less interregnum, as a straight-ahead rock number, with Urie and Crawford trading chords and Weekes bounding about the stage.

The message on this night was clear: Panic! are refocused, refreshed and just plain ready. The theme didn't matter. It's a celebration, people. Pull on your steampunk finest and get ready to dance.