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October 25, 2014

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MUSIC:

With more songs to tap, Panic will offer less spectacle

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Panic at the Disco will be part of the only outdoor concert this year at Hard Rock on Thursday.

IF YOU GO

Who: Panic at the Disco, Dashboard Confessional, Plain White T’s and the Cab

What: Rock Band Live Tour

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Paradise Stage at Hard Rock

Tickets: $39.50; 693-5000

Beyond the Sun

Jon Walker tells how a kid from Chicago ended up riding a rocket ship to success with the Las Vegas band Panic at the Disco.

Walker was fresh out of high school and traveling with a hometown band, taking photographs and changing guitar strings for the group to help pay his way. Then he met Panic guitarist Ryan Ross.

“I started playing guitar with Ryan the first night I met him, and from there we became good friends,” Walker says.

There was some tension in the band and bassist Brent Wilson left (or was fired, as he claims) just before the band was set for a European tour.

“They asked me to fill in,” Walker says.

With “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” rising up the charts, Panic was poised for international stardom. Walker jumped on board at the launchpad.

“It was pretty crazy,” he says. “I think I was kind of lucky. I joined the band right before they did their first album tour. I kind of got in right in time. I missed a lot of the legwork.”

Panic! at the Disco dropped the exclamation point from the middle of its name this year and released a second album, “Pretty. Odd.”

Panic returns to Las Vegas and plays at the Hard Rock Hotel on Thursday. The Rock Band Live Tour also features Dashboard Confessional, Plain White T’s and another Vegas band, the Cab.

The tour is sponsored by the music video game “Rock Band.”

“This should be fun. I’ve never had a video game sponsored tour,” Walker says. “What better game to sponsor it?”

Walker says Panic concerts have changed from the early days, such as the concert a couple of years ago at the Orleans that featured a show that would have done Cirque du Soleil proud.

“That was part of our first big headlining tour, maybe our second,” Walker says. “The Orleans Arena is a huge place, and we were playing places like that all over the country and we were trying to put on that kind of show with only one record. So we were inspired to make it more of a spectacle.

“But for the last couple of tours, we have more music to draw from and so we have kind of stepped back from all of that to focus more on the music. We have gotten a little bit better at our instruments so we feel we can put some more attention back into the band.”

When Panic wraps up this tour, the band will be ready to start work on its third album.

“We have toured a lot and so much time passed between the first and second record,” he says, “we don’t think we want that much of a gap this time around.”

He says the group is looking forward to the outdoor concert at the Hard Rock, where the temporary Paradise Stage is being built specifically for the event in the parking lot to the west of the property. There will be room for about 5,000 fans.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done an outside concert at the Hard Rock,” he says. “It should be really great. Not to dis the Hard Rock, but The Joint isn’t that great a venue.”

Maybe his opinion will change when the new Joint opens next year. It will have a seating capacity of 2,000.

Paul Davis, Hard Rock vice president of entertainment, says this will be the only outdoor concert at the venue this year. “We’re trying to do something a little bit different. We wanted to have a big show and keep the tickets reasonable. This is the only show we’ll do outside this year. By next year the new Joint and the convention center will be open.”

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