Columbus alternative rock radio station 105.7 The X celebrated one year on the air with not one but two renditions of “Happy Birthday” sung by a sold-out crowd at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Wednesday night.
The 105.7 The X First Birthday Bash packed the indoor concert venue with fans who were motivated by two goals: to escape the cold and to catch a glimpse of the evening’s headliner, Las Vegas-based alternative rock band Panic! at the Disco.
As the line of excited concert-goers — many dressed in band t-shirts that offered little protection from the bone-chilling wind — snaked around the parking lot and into the venue, the excitement built as soundchecks occurred on stage. The sheer amount of people waiting to see the show was astonishing, given that the concert was scheduled smack dab in the middle of the work week.
The pit area quickly filled up with multicolored scarves and pom-pom-topped winter hats, and the crowd surged forward en masse when the lights dimmed and the first opening band strided out into the spotlight.
Hippo Campus, a band from St. Paul, Minnesota, with a delightfully punny name, succeeded in banishing all lasting remnants of dreary winter weather with its bright indie pop sound that emanated sunkissed summertime vibes. Although the crowd took a while to warm up — most likely because it took that long for people to feel their feet again after standing outside — by the end, Hippo Campus undoubtedly gained a sizeable group of new fans with its final songs “South” and “Little Grace,” which showcased infectious enthusiasm and youthful energy.
Next up was Grizfolk, an alternative rock group which presented a slightly edgier set, exemplified by lead singer and guitarist Adam Roth’s raw, growling drawl that added the perfect touch of folksy charm without killing the dancey, electric beats of songs like “The Struggle,” “Hymnals” and “Troublemaker.”
As expected, the singing of “Happy Birthday” occurred during the changeover from Grizfolk and Panic! at the Disco in an attempt to distract audience members from the bustling stage hands darting back and forth with cables, duct tape and guitars. The crowd somewhat begrudgingly obliged and joined the sing-along. However, there was no denying the energy pumping through the room as the stage cleared once more for the band’s entrance.
Welcomed by the manic screams of front-row fans, Brendon Urie, Panic! at the Disco’s lead singer and sole remaining original member, walked purposely to the center-stage microphone and sang “Vegas Lights,” a song that showcases the group’s pride in its geographical roots, as well as Urie’s impressive vocal range.
Dressed in a shimmering gold jacket and standing on a stage illuminated with multicolored lights, Urie commanded the stage. He paid homage to the band’s early material by treating long-time fans to performances of songs off of Panic!’s debut album, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” as well as the band’s second album “Pretty. Odd.”
The bouncy opening chords of “Nine in the Afternoon” and the wryly written lyrics of “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” were met with cheers and nostalgic smiles from those in the audience old enough to remember the early eras of Panic! at the Disco’s ever-changing sound. However, they also served as a bittersweet reminder of the obstacles this band has overcome and just how much it has changed.
For the most part, though, the performance, like the evening as a whole, exuded a sense of celebration. With pitch-perfect performances of newer songs like “Hallelujah” and “Victorious” (from the band’s upcoming album “Death of a Bachelor,” set to be released in January), as well as a commendable cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Urie pleased the crowd with each absurdly high note he belted.
Panic! at the Disco closed out the show with yet another version of “Happy Birthday” — this time sung by Urie to a fan — and the ever-popular “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” before thanking the audience and disappearing backstage.
This wasn’t like any Panic! at the Disco concert you would have seen in 2006, but that’s OK. The band, like the fans standing in line in the winter air, has proven to be resilient, and for that, it will continue to be a group that sells out concerts on weekday nights.