Fall Out Boy, American Fangs Bayou Music Center June 7, 2013
I was telling someone on Friday, "I get to go to Fall Out Boy tonight!" Her reaction? "Ha! Is it 2004?"
I couldn't blame her for the response. Fall Out Boy's name prompts memories of bad piercings, worse haircuts and overly dramatic kids, aka the Era of Emo. Fall Out Boy was one of the most popular bands of the era, and for good reason. Their songs were super catchy and their lyrics were undeniably relatable, whether you were an emo kid or not.
It may not be 2004, but Fall Out Boy still makes super-catchy rock songs with great lyrics. Friday night at Bayou Music Center, they played the hell out of them.
Before Fall Out Boy took the stage on Friday night, Houston's own American Fangs opened the show coming off a well-praised performance at last weekend's Free Press Summer Fest. The crowd cheered loudly when the Fangs took the stage; the first two songs were blemished with some microphone issues, but once resolved, the band sounded great. They're not the most original band I've ever heard, but I'm not sure that matters. They rock hard and put on a good show. I'm excited to keep seeing them live and to follow their career.
About a half-hour after American Fangs' formidable set, Fall Out Boy opened their show with a banging rendition of "Thriller" from Infinity on High, and the entire crowd immediately started to sing. LED screens behind the band said "SAVE ROCK AND ROLL," not only the title of their new album, but what seems to be the band's current objective. Haters are gonna hate on that, but FOB doesn't care. Based on their energy output and their collective performances, they are clearly dedicated to the goal.
They followed with "I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me" off From Under the Cork Tree, the album responsible for breaking FOB into superfame a decade ago. Listening to this song was like driving a DeLorean at 88 mph in the greatest way possible.
The lyrics say, "I've found the cure to growing older." I have. The cure is to constantly make great memories to music, and then pop the old songs in once in awhile. Instant time machine.
Except you have to get older, and FOB knows that. Take guitarist and main songwriter Pete Wentz, for example. He was once the heartthrob poster boy of emo who became one of the most reviled people in music for a brief moment, but has clearly matured from the obnoxious a-hole he used to be. Wentz knows he can't be that guy anymore; that public persona has a shelf life. No one wants to hear what a-holes have to say after awhile, and that is not what Wentz wants.
But he is a great songwriter who weaves together clever lyrics that are relatable and accessible. Wentz wants people to hear these lyrics and listen to FOB, and can't accomplish that by being obnoxious.
Wentz is still an engaging button-pusher, though. Several times in the night he goaded the crowd: once because of an audience member's attire ("Hey, cool collared shirt, bro") and several times to get them to liven up.
Throughout the entire show, it was challenging to see the stage. Not because I'm 5'2" or because of all the hands in the air, waving like they just don't care, but because of all the people attempting to take pictures and video of the show. Hey guys, maybe take one or two, but there is no need for 75 pics of a band from far away with a bunch of heads in the shot. Everyone on your Instagram thinks you are a dick.
One thing to say about Fall Out Boy is that they are not a one-note band. Sure, their music fits inside the whole pop-punk/rock/emo genre, but their songs by no means all sound the same, which cannot be said of many of the other bands that grew out of that time period.
FOB's drummer Andy Hurley, was awesome, pounding hard all night long. This guy is good shit. Guitarist Joe Trohman banged his incredible Sideshow Bob 'fro and got the fans excited a few times during the night while playing on the box.
Singer Patrick Stump was fantastic. His range is vast, but what makes him even more effective is the amount of passion he puts into every word he sings. Decorating his phrasing with trills and runs, everything he does is full of feeling.
Sometimes Wentz's vocals are more complementary to Stump's than others. The low growl on the older songs is 50/50: sometimes contrived and other times more purposeful. On "The Phoenix," from the new album, Wentz's vocals blend more organically, and show the development the band experienced during their hiatus. The song had a good backbeat and was good. Nothing monumental, but better-than-decent rock.
I'd certainly rather listen to this than plenty of the other crap masquerading around as "rock" these days. I've heard FOB is hit or miss live. I've only seen them twice, so maybe I'm lucky that both were "hits?" This show was extremely well-executed.
During "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," the band's sixth song of the night and one of their best-known, Wentz said to the crowd, "It's been awhile since we have been here, so I wanna hear you sing." It was his second time of the evening asking for participation.
I'm going to be really honest here. I realize that it is somewhat offensive for a transplant to point this out and unfortunately I feel like I've brought this up already, so I promise to shut up for awhile. But really, Houston crowds need to get it together. They are often low-energy and visibly less engaged. I am not saying that Houston fans are any less dedicated, because the fans at this show were clearly diehards. Fans in Houston just don't display their fandom as outwardly. Often the performers themselves notice this, which is just awkward.
Fall Out Boy noticed. By Houston standards, this crowd was really into it. They were singing every word to every song, but there wasn't really any movement or dancing at all.
About 12 songs in, Wentz again addressed the crowd: "You know, I've played Houston quite a few times, and I've gotta say... you all seem a little subdued." He continued to coax the audience to crowd surf by maybe getting free t-shirts. A national act, which the audience paid to see, should never have to do this, even in jest. And on the record, the band was playing a kickass show.
Wentz's bargaining worked, and the crowd was more into it for the remainder of the regular set, which included a great rendition of "Sugar, We're Going Down." The crowd gave an amazing response to the band, to which Wentz said, "Yeah Houston! That's where I like you!"
Their performance of their newest single "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark" also got the crowd screaming. The entire band performed the hell out of that song.
Afterwards, the band abruptly left the stage and came out three minutes later for a three-song encore. Once back out, it was Stump's turn to address the crowd: "So we love you guys, and this is really awesome, but you don't have to experience this digitally. You can put your phones down, and, actually see us play." I love you, Patrick Stump.
Their encore included "Save Rock and Roll," a good song off their new album. I believe in their message: the guys in this band, love them or hate them, really do love rock and roll. They want to play shows where people participate and are active and present. They want to make music that is driven by guitars and drums and loud singing. And whether or not you are a fan of Fall Out Boy, you have to respect that. Save rock and roll.
Personal Bias: Shockingly, Fall Out Boy's music stands the test of time. Their songs sound as good as they originally did and still emotionally resonate with listeners, and their new music kicks a decent amount of ass. Based on the show, I'm going to get the new album.
The Crowd: Mostly 16-30 with fewer parental chaperones than usual. The crowd was smaller than I anticipated, but was full of FOB diehards who sang every note.
Overheard In the Crowd: "We don't have a skeezy door guy here who sells coke, so seriously, how the hell am I supposed to survive as a bartender?"
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Random Notebook Dump: I'm completely and utterly sick of going to shows and seeing people on their goddamn phones the whole time. I'm so glad that I grew up in the pre-smartphone era so I have some effing digital tact. Seriously, quit Facebooking in the middle of concerts. Post about it AFTER.