When was the last time you were actually afraid of losing something? That primordial fear rattled me just before seeing Fall Out Boy for the first time on Friday night. I was truly concerned that the nostalgia of laying on my living room floor after school and watching Fall Out Boy play “Sugar, We’re Going Down” over and over again on TRL would vanish, replaced by a jaded sense of having outgrown the band a decade on. But here’s the beautiful thing: In concert these days, Andy Hurley is as powerful and precise as ever, Joe Trohman lays out riffs with that Telecaster like he was meant to do so, Patrick Stump belts out gospel-quality vocals, and Pete Wentz’s hammering low-end has the same punch that it did on From Under The Cork Tree more than 10 years ago.
Fall Out Boy opened its Friday night concert at Talking Stick Resort Arena with “Irresistible” — their most recent single, a radio hit seemed to be one of those that everyone in the room knew — with no sign that “Sugar, We’re Going Down” would be right around the corner, which lead my entire demographic into a singalong. Never could I have imagined those four opening chords translating as well as they did into an arena setting, that palm-muted upstroking just before Trohman’s double-stop riff sounding positively thunderous in Talking Stick. The juxtaposition of old and new became the trope of the evening, the setlist volleying between each era of the band, with nary a song lost on the 15-and-under audience members present. From “Dance, Dance” to “Thnks fr th Mmrs” and everywhere in between, the crowd knew each word to every song, and I shouldn’t have been surprised as I was. If I was that age again and discovering this band for the first time, I’d want to dig into that back catalog, though my My Heart Will Always Be The B-Side to My Tongue is now their Infinity On High. Crazy.
With tracks like “The Take Over, The Break’s Over” and even “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” it’s easy to imagine Fall Out Boy bringing a similar level of intimacy to the Chicago clubs they cut their teeth in, with all this raw, precocious talent honed and polished for the big stage but still showing its bones. The weight of the grand piano-driven tribute to David Bowie with “Save Rock and Roll,” the title track from the Butch Walker-produced 2013 record, may have flown over a few of the younger heads, but it was a rare slow moment in an otherwise fast-and-hard set.
Despite the time-warp interplay, the layers of Fall Out Boy show when the songs are foiled against each other in this fashion; some are crafted for rooms with ceilings high enough to capture Stump’s vocals, fashioned for the pyrotechnics that follow them, and others still feel like they could turn a 500-capacity room into a sweaty, heaving, screaming mess in the best way possible. The throwback of “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy Tonight” exudes this sentiment best, looking like a hell of a fun song to play for the band but whose lyrics are a snapshot of a time when there wasn’t any irony in words that are now aging slightly.
It’s not until you hear the new, refreshed genius of songs like “Fourth of July” and “Novocaine” in a live setting, with their biting wit and sticky choruses, that you realize that Fall Out Boy still has it. Yeah, there’s been breakups and make-ups and the shows now have snow and streamers and seizure-inducing screens and fire, but pare this band back to its core, throw them in a small room and they’d still induce this kind of fervor. Even Pete Wentz's Arma Angelus-styled screaming and crowdsurfing on encore closer "Saturday" wouldn't have been out of place in a club setting, but it's downright delightful to see in an 18,000-capacity arena. It's still a party for Fall Out Boy.
Shame on me for ever doubting these guys and their writing capabilities — I was never capable of being too cool for Fall Out Boy and if you think the same, you haven’t seen them live lately. Try as you might, you can’t outgrow this shit.
Last Night: Fall Out Boy at Talking Stick Resort Arena
The Crowd: Way, way younger than I'd imagined, with a handful of tweens that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the same show in 2006.
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Random Notebook Dump: The best text of the night came from my friend Barbie, down on the floor of the venue: “AWOLNATION can skate by on radio play; their songs are catchy enough to warrant a good listen on my commute to work. I, however, will not invest in live concert tickets unless those tickets come with complimentary Excedrin.” She’s right; their live set was truly too dissonant and off-putting to waste words on.
Random Notebook Dump 2: Big ups to Fall Out Boy on those great Gucci-inspired souvenir jackets and to Wentz for wearing Yeezy Boost 350s on stage. Kanye is probably nodding approvingly somewhere.
Sugar, We're Goin Down
"The Take Over, the Breaks Over"
The Kids Aren't Alright
This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race
Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes
Save Rock and Roll
Fourth of July
Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy
American Beauty/American Psycho
Jet Pack Blues
I Don't Care
Thnks fr th Mmrs
My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)