LOWELL - The boys in Panic at the Disco are true showmen. They have to be in order to perform songs from their two divergent studio albums with seamless style.
Sure, the masses were at Tsongas Arena Wednesday night to hear the band's "TRL"-friendly hits - namely "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," from 2005's theatrical emo disc "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out" - but they didn't seem to mind when the sharp-dressed men from Las Vegas ventured into the straightforward '60s-style rock songs from this year's "Pretty. Odd."
The psychedelic "When the Day Met the Night" inspired a Beatles-circa-"Sgt. Pepper's" moment. The band crooned "When the moon fell in love with the sun / All was golden in the sky" as hazy yellow lights swept over the stage, and the guys had fun with the song's silly lyrics about celestial romance. That same sense of humor carried the schmaltzy "It's Almost Halloween," which encouraged the crowd to "Do the trick or treat," as two-stepping werewolves and mummies shuffled across the video screen behind the band.
"The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage" gave frontman Brendon Urie's flexible voice a workout, as he belted out the catchy "Trophy boys, trophy wives" line over the bouncing audience. The crowd really went wild during the band's last song: Who knew you could mosh to the Isley Brothers' "Shout"? Panic at the Disco is one of the only bands that could make this wedding song cool to the Converse All-Star crew.
A decidedly laid-back Dashboard Confessional preceded Panic, and at times the emo poster children seemed to be mailing it in. The pain was evident in the heartstring-tugging lyrics, but even frontman Christopher Carrabba seemed to be rolling his eyes under his fedora when he asked: "Does anyone out there like love?"
The band ran through older hits, including "Screaming Infidelities" and "Hands Down," and more recent tunes such as "Thick as Thieves" and "These Bones"; Carrabba admitted the last of these was inspired by Stephenie Meyer's adolescent fiction series "Twilight." A highlight: "Vindicated," which almost caused frenetic drummer Mike Marsh to fall off his stool.
Pleasingly vanilla Chicago band the Plain White T's also had an opening spot on the bill. The energetic band played "Hey There Delilah" - to the delight of shrieking tweens - as well as "1, 2, 3, 4," a twee ballad coming soon to a top-40 radio station near you.