It seems that anyone over the age of sixteen is unsure whether Fall Out Boy is an acceptable band or not, but only about one percent of the crowd at last week’s Madison Square Garden show belonged to this ambivalent demographic, so the atmosphere was decidedly PSYCHED! TO! BE! THERE!
In my pretentious high school days, I’d have never deigned to attend a show at an arena (the horror!), but there was a very special time in my life during which the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas, was the destination for all my concert needs. Which included Blink 182 and… Blink 182. Observing the crazed mayhem last week, I couldn’t help but recall the similar, if not identical sentiment of my seventh-grade Blink 182 experience. How do the two concerts compare? Are the kids today getting everything they can out of their exuberant mall-emo/pop-punk life phase?
Band: Blink 182
Company: My dad.
Concert vibe: Distinct mixture of sheer adolescent glee and misguided sense of anti-boy band edginess.
Stage decor: Giant flaming “FUCK.” Yes, literally the letters F-U-C-K on fire suspended above the stage.
Stage banter: Scatological humor and lots of oral sex talk.
Whatever your feelings on Blink 182, it’s hard to deny the goodwill they established by virtue of their utter and complete willingness–determination, even–to not take themselves seriously. At this point in their career, before the tragic self-importance set in, they did not–if I may–give a flaming fuck about serious music, nor about presenting themselves as serious musicians, which made their slapdash songs seem only appropriate. They were fun, and shallow, and they provided a convenient alternative to the Backstreet Boys. Their shows were sloppy, though not incompetent in the least, and they were even pretty cute. And, most importantly, you could shimmy around the non-violent mosh pit to every song because of their very specific, unrelenting pop-punk drum beat.
(A good example of typical charming Blink 182 stage banter.)
Band: Fall Out Boy
Company: Maura and other music writers.
Concert vibe: Overwhelming excitement, minimal self-awareness, and undertones of prickly middle-school-girl bitchiness (seriously, I’ll die of shock if I ever attend a mall emo show without witnessing a pack of girls rushing hurriedly around the venue in various states of distress).
Stage decor: Large platform for the drummer, huge monitor featuring innocuous animations for each song, moving sidewalks, lots of pyro, and a rad hideaway platform with stools for the acoustic portion of the show.
Stage banter: Surprisingly minimal, restricted to banal “thank you”s and crowd pump-ups. Pete Wentz did at one point demand that the audience do the wave. “Loaded God complex/Cock it and pull it,” right, Pete?
Those unfamiliar with early Fall Out Boy may doubt the merit of this comparison, but trust me, it’s completely called for:
This song actually sounds a lot more like New Found Glory, but you get the point.
These days the band is a little more dynamic style-wise, and they’ve even managed to step up their live performance, which used to be notoriously atrocious:
I was pleasantly surprised by how technically competent they were. Either my bar for their live show was so low that anything would have impressed me, or they really have finally figured out how to play their instruments. And Patrick Stump, whose voice is no sure bet under the best circumstances, managed to carry the entire show without any major pitch catastrophes, a true feat considering all the vocal acrobatics on Infinity On High. It was apparent that Fall Out Boy had realized that music could be potentially very good to them if they are good to it, and they were therefore not messing around in the slightest. They ripped through a full set with skill and professionalism, and the crowd couldn’t have been more enthusiastic: screaming along to the songs, dancing, proudly vocalizing their love for Pete. And as a nod to truly arena-worthy pop, they even did a passable cover of “Mr. Brightside.”
It was distinctly fulfilling to see so many people experiencing the joy of live music in one place at one time, but I personally was left with an odd corporate aftertaste, perhaps because every time Pete Wentz defiantly threw his mic stand to the floor in the interest of theatrics a bored-looking roadie stationed at the side of the stage would scurry up to replace it almost before it even hit the ground. Little things like that distracted from the illusion of carefree fun and made me wonder what in the hell a band like Fall Out Boy was doing on the arena rock trajectory with minimal epic-ness and only a handful of really boppy songs. Blink 182 could handle such venues by sheer force of their cantankerous stage presence, but Fall Out Boy, though musically superior, lacks the energy to dominate a large-scale venue. Case in point, this performance in Houston from July:
The JumboTron is great and all, but this performance would be far more effective in a smaller club setting.
Then again, it’s their prerogative to sell out Madison Square Garden, much to the delight of hundreds of 13-year-old girls from Long Island.
[Photo: Getty Images]