By Keeyahtay Lewis
I have been spending a lot of time shooting shows at Starland Ballroom lately. They really do have some amazing bands come through. On Friday night, 11/4/11, Panic! At The Disco came through, bringing Foxy Shazam and Patrick Stump for support. I came in during Foxy Shazam’s first song, and I ran right to the pit to get my shots taken. It took me a couple minutes to settle into my groove and be able to actually watch what was going on on stage. Before I even really could pay attention to what was going on I was able to feel the energy radiating from the stage. I don’t know that I have ever seen a band quite like Foxy Shazam. Frontman Eric Sean Nally led the band like a captain trying to wrangle a speeding bullet. If Freddy Mecury and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness had a child somehow, Nally would be it. Theatrical would be an understatement. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with. At times he ran across the stage on all fours lightening fast, other times he belted out songs sitting on the shoulders of his guitar player.
The rest of the band kept up well and managed to also keep some of the spotlight on them. They all had their own definite quirky style and movements. The music sounded tight and upbeat, which fit with Nally’s often high pitched vocals. Keys and trumpets often complemented the songs. Foxy Shazam is not a band I am familiar with, but the audience clearly was. They never stopped moving or singing, matching the energy from the stage.
I will say that something weird happened towards the end of the set. Nally definitely has style and movements and gestures on stage that make you wonder a bit about his sexuality. Normally that wouldn’t be something I even mention, but at one point he thrust his crotch in the back of the one of the security guards heads, which the guard didn’t really like. He pulled away from the stage. A bit later Nally flicked a cigarette at him, and then toss a cymbal in his direction. He then took the microphone and basically said a big eff you to Starland Ballroom, and awkwardly stormed off the stage. It was a bit strange to see and I know it left people wondering what happened.
A short time later Patrick Stump took the stage. Most known as the frontman for Fall Out Boy, he is now touring on his first solo album. Taking the stage dressed in a bright blue tuxedo, matching bow tie, black shirt, black fingerless gloves and side swooped bright blonde hair, the new thin Stump doesn’t even remotely resemble the guy we are used to seeing. His solo album could be described as pop synth, and he played this image up 100%. He opened with a medley that started with “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie and two of his own songs. For me, the bad part was that my favorite song by him, “Spotlight,” was included in this. This was the song that was everywhere before his album even came out, so I would like to have heard the whole song.
Stump never stopped moving and it looked like he was having a genuinely good time playing these songs. His band kept up well dancing and playing right along with him. At the end of the set Stump jumped out into the audience and every kid in the place reached out to touch him.
If I had to sum up his set I would say at times it sounded fantastic and at other times it sounded like a train wreck. Losing weight and perhaps the weight of Fall Out Boy has turned Patrick Stump into a dancing machine. Some Michael Jackson/Justin Timberlake hybrid. There were definitely many times where I wish he would have danced less and actually just sang well. It is not that he didn’t sound good, but there were definitely a few times where his dancing definitely took the place of him actually being on point vocally. At one point he sat down behind the drum kit for a solo and then ripped into a pretty fantastic cover of “In The Air Tonight.” For me that was the highlight, and it should not have been. The set ended with “This City” which did sound fantastic live. He is definitely a great frontman for FOB, and he will probably end up becoming a great solo artist too, but to me at least, it seems like he was still searching for his groove.
I have seen Panic! At The Disco play once before, while touring on their first, incredible, album. I haven’t seen them since. Or to be honest, heard much of their music since then either. Watching the stage being set up, I had a feeling it would be a good show. It looked almost like a mad scientist lab. When they took the stage, the place erupted. Front to back, you could feel the excitement. Much has been said about the fact that only the singer and drummer remain from the original lineup, but the band sounded fantastic. I was impressed all around.
Brendon Urie has a fantastic range and it was on display Friday night. Their set included all the songs that we all know, “Lying Is the Most Fun…”, “Mona Lisa”, “Nine In The Afternoon” and of course, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” These songs had the biggest response, but even the songs that I didn’t really know well were clearly well known by everyone else at the show. I am not entirely sure who is in the band these days, but whoever they are, they sounded great and had chemistry to spare. At times Urie jumped behind a piano that was lit up with the band name and rocked out songs everyone knew so well.
Before their set the band tweeted to fans asking what covers they should play. Panic! included two cover songs in their set. “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People and “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Both songs sounded great, but hearing Urie sing the shit out of the Darkness, and sing it so well was pretty amazing. That is not an easy song to sing, and he sounded great. He closed out the set starting out mostly solo with an acoustic guitar and it was a rare quiet moment in an upbeat night.
Despite a few awkward moments and a couple of hiccups, it was a great night for a sold out crowd. It made me excited to see Panic! again and curious to see what kind of solo performer Patrick Stump will eventually be. All the bands clearly had great admiration for one another and that is always nice to see. I am not sure if Foxy Shazam will ever come back to Starland but I know that almost everyone loved them as well. I love that Starland Ballroom is a venue so close to my house and they continually have incredible bands come through. I know that if Panic! ever come back to this part of NJ, I will most likely be there.
All photos courtesy of Keeyahtay Lewis. See more of his work at www.deadboltphotos.com