Courtesy Fueled by Ramen Press
Saturday, June 18, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Map of House of Blues
3950 S. Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
The album, “Vices & Virtues,” is the band’s first in three years, following a 2009 split that saw lead songwriter and founding member Ryan Ross leave with bassist Jon Walker to start their own project. “Vices & Virtues” was released in March.
Panic! broke onto the music scene as teenagers in 2005 with their double-platinum debut “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.”
For most bands, selling nearly 2 million albums would be considered the high point of a career, but for Panic!, the record was only Act One.
Setting their own bar so high so quickly has been a tough act for the young musicians to follow, and despite good reviews, sales of two newer albums have lagged.
On album two, 2008’s “Pretty. Odd.,” the band jettisoned its vaudevillian antics and pop punk leanings, instead drawing on 1960s British Invasion influences to produce a more refined and psychedelia-tinged sound that was met with critical acclaim — but fewer sales.
Following the departure of Ross and Walker, the band was left without a clear direction and took time developing a new sound while vocalist and guitarist Brendon Urie, a Palo Verde High School graduate, came into his own as a songwriter.
“We took a lot longer than we would have liked to put out this album,” said Spencer Smith, the band’s drummer. “We spent some time just figuring out what we were going to do two years ago when we split. For us, we wanted to get back to the mentality of the first record, where anything can go...(everything’s) worth a shot.”
“Vices & Virtues,” the band’s first album as a duo, has been well-received by critics — Annie Zaleski, who reviewed the album for Las Vegas Weekly, a sister publication of the Sun, called it a “seamless combination of the carnivalesque flamboyance of 2005’s ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ and the ambitious popscapes of 2008’s ‘Pretty. Odd.’”
Fans have also bought into the new sound, pushing the latest record into the Top 10 on the Billboard charts during the week after its release.
But sales of “Vices & Virtues” still haven’t approached the epic proportions of the band’s debut album.
“That’s a scary thing to be chasing,” Smith said. “It’s tough; you can deliberately try to fit into that mold...(but) I think fans can tell when bands try to do that. Now it’s more about the core fan base.”
The cross-country tour, which started in May and will wrap up at the end of June, has seen Panic! playing smaller venues than the arena stages it commanded in the past. The decision, Smith said, was a conscious one.
“For our show we dress the stage up, we have a lot of production to add to the theme of whatever the tour is,” he said. “Because it had been so long since we toured, part of it was us wanting to enjoy playing those size of venues.”
Although Smith and Urie now live in California, Smith, a Bishop Gorman High School graduate, said he makes it back to Las Vegas every few months to visit family and friends, many of whom will be attending today’s show.
“It’s different because...we know so many people there,” he said. “We didn’t really build a big following (in Las Vegas) before we left...but we’ve always had great shows there.”
The band last played Las Vegas in March during a small acoustic set at the House of Blues to promote the upcoming album.
Traveling with Panic! this time are Ohio rock band Foxy Shazam and New York-based Fun.
Smith said Panic! likes to serve as tour guides when out-of-town bands visit their home city, but with the House of Blues gig sandwiched between performances in Tempe, Ariz., and San Diego, the bands won’t have much time to spend exploring Las Vegas.
“We always like to do a little bit of gambling now that we’re old enough,” Smith said. “We like to take advantage of seeing the Strip — when we were younger, besides for a concert, we didn’t find ourselves down there too much.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. for the show at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
Advance tickets cost $25, or $30 at the door.