After a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, Fall Out Boy is back. More importantly, they’re on a mission: they’ve come to Save Rock and Roll, and I for one am grateful. While I’m admittedly not intimately familiar with this band’s discography, singles like “Dance, Dance,” “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” and especially this year’s smash “My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” are too fantastic to resist. As soon as I got word that they had scheduled a show at San Francisco’s temporary America’s Cup Pavilion, I requested to cover them. How could I not? I knew it promised to be an amazing Saturday night on the waterfront! Better yet, it wasn’t even until the night of the show that I found out that Panic! at the Disco were set to open, alongside a band I’d not heard of, Twenty One Pilots. Regrettably, I made the same mistake for Saturday’s show that I’d made when I arrived in the neighborhood back in July for Counting Crows and the Wallflowers – namely, I didn’t give myself enough time to find a place to park in the craziness that is the Embarcadero, and I was late. So late, in fact, that I missed nearly all of Twenty One Pilots’ set. What I did hear, though, piqued my interest: the crowd seemed to really dig them, clapping along and cheering enthusiastically. That alone is reason enough for me to give, Vessel, their current offering, a listen. I’ll check them out and hopefully find another chance to catch them soon.
At approximately 7:45, the crowd began to chant, “Panic! Panic! Panic!” and didn’t have long to wait. As with Fall Out Boy, I regrettably don’t know much of their material save the biggest hits. Having said that, I was really excited to hear them live, as I’ve always thought there was something very reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas about their music, which is both delightful and intriguing. (Turns out it’s not just me: managing editor Dakin, with whom I went to the show, agreed that they have a decidedly “Tim Burton vibe.”) I had high hopes that singer Brendan Urie’s voice would be wonderful live as on record, and I’m happy to report that he didn’t let me down. I didn’t know this to be true from the pit, because the show was so loud that I literally couldn’t hear vocals at all (and as a result, I don’t know exactly which songs they played while I was down there). I know for sure they played “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” within the first song or two, though. When Brendan first addressed the crowd, he made me laugh: “how you feeling? You sound good. You smell good!”
From a reasonable distance (read: back outside of the photo pit), they sounded fantastic. The show continued with “Let’s Kill Tonight,” after which Brendan stopped to ask, “can everybody hear me alright?” Someone must have mentioned how difficult it was for the very front to hear the vocals; I like that he cared enough to ask. New song “This is Gospel” came next, which reminded me ever-so-slightly of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” but I’m not sure I could pinpoint exactly why. Amping the crowd for the headliner, Mr. Urie dropped the name Fall Out Boy, which never fails: the crowd erupted in excited cheers as the band began the next song, “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind).” At this point, I was continually trying to shift ever-so-gradually so as to both stay near my friends and avoid screaming teenage girls, but finally I realized I wouldn’t have much luck. (Dakin teased that I should be used to screaming, given my penchance for New Kids on the Block shows, but those women aren’t teenagers, and I’ve had decades of practice tuning that out…) I hate to say it, because I know how negative the connotation is, but I couldn’t help but make a mental comparison between bands like Panic! and the “other” kind of boyband: yes, bands like Panic! play instruments, and they don’t dance. Their fans smoke pot and generally have more tattoos and piercings, but at the end of the day, the hysteria is very similar. But all this shouldn’t be held against the band, who were every bit as good live as on their CDs, which is what I always hope for.
Brendan took a break from singing to plug their new album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, out October 8th, which he admitted the band was excited for. From the forthcoming album, new song “Miss Jackson” was next, and the “are you nasty? I love her anyway” lyric made me laugh. (Although I wonder how many of the band’s young fans will get the reference?) After “But it’s Better if You Do,” Brendan thanked the audience and said that they had time for a couple more songs, which he called “bittersweet,” saying they were “sad to leave, but Fall Out Boy’s gonna come out!” The next song, he said, was “for people who really really like to experiment.” It was “Nine in the Afternoon,” and it was awesome.
When Brendan said something about a “positive hardcore Saturday,” I didn’t really get what he was after. But I understood completely when he teased himself and bandmates to “stop fuckin’ around! Stop pussyfootin!'” and added, to the crowd, “Thank you for partying with us!” Predictably, the band’s biggest hit, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” wrapped their excellent set, drumsticks flying out into the crowd as they left the stage without much hoopla.
Speaking of hoopla…when the members of Fall Out Boy took the stage, it was amid much of that from the crowd. I don’t know why they chose to don FOB ski masks for the first song, or why the crowd sang happy birthday. (I checked their birthdays to see what I’d miss, and I guess it was to guitarist Joe Trohman? His birthday was the closest, but still several weeks back.) Again it was difficult to hear Patrick Stump’s vocals from the pit, but not as much as had been the case with Panic! The set opened with “The Phoenix,” which was very successful in riling up the crowd right off the bat. Toward the song’s end, when the line says “wave the white flag,” Pete Wentz busted out an enormous white flag with a black FOB logo on it and waved it till the song concluded – nice touch. In the dark after that first song, off came the ski masks and when the lights returned, “I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me” came next, followed by “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me'” and huge hit “This Ain’t a Scene, it’s an Arms Race.”
“Alright, San Francisco, I wanna hear you! You guys alright?!” At this point, the show came to an abrubt but compassionate halt. I’ve been to many a show where bands half-heartedly ask the crowd to step back to give the front some room. Fall Out Boy, though, took this to a new level, asking everyone to take “one giant step back on the floor, if possible,” on the count of three. “That looks more comfortable… kind of. We’re stopping for a second!” The crowd wanted to be as near to the stage as possible, of course, but Fall Out Boy wasn’t ready to give up. “We’re having a hard time, let’s get everyone taken care of. Keep quiet for a sec, help each other out!” Even more impressive, members of the band began pointing out specific people in the front who were in need of assistance from the pit crew. Music aside, this definitely earned them my respect. As people were rearranging (and/or being pulled from the pit, already drunk or otherwise encumbered), Patrick took a moment to encourage us to “take care of each other, help each other up,” and again asking everyone to take a giant step back, saying “that’d be awesome.” More importantly, he promised that they would “play the same amount of songs,” but that they had to “make sure everyone’s safe up here first. Are you guys good down there now? Thumbs up?” I was thoroughly impressed, and then it was time to “get us back in the moment,” while the band checked on those back in the stands, giving them some deserved attention as well. (“I got a lot of love for the stands. Maybe because my heart is made out of nachos…”)
After making absolutely sure everyone was as safe and happy as possible came the perfectly timed statement: “punk rock will never leave you alone,” which perfectly set the tone for “Alone Together,” followed by a great guitar solo from Joe. “Thriller” was next, and then Pete Wentz marveled, “it’s good to realize our entire fan base is full of fucking freaks!” adding that they “don’t just look like freaks,” but are actually “freaks on the inside.” Somehow, he successfully threw in a mention of an “after party in Patrick’s pants” before they began the next song, “Death Valley.”
Promising “a little redemption for you in the stands,” the band opted to let them start the next song with a good old-fashioned round of the wave, though Pete admitted he found it “weird on the pier of a yacht club,” but insisted they were “not doing the song unless you do it.” He instructed them that when they “feel like you’re getting a sunburn, it’s time to stand up!” (Because they had the spotlight trained to sweep the stands.) The song was “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down,” and very nearly blew my mind: it’s far better live than any other time I’ve heard it, and I already loved it to begin with. My notes: “fucking awesome live!”
Next, the guys promised to put people in the crowd on camera who were singing along. I’m not sure why one of them said that they’d “put ’em on blast,” because I always thought that expression had a negative connotation, but perhaps I’m wrong? The song was “Young Volcanoes,” and as promised, the cameras focused on those singing along, as well as those trying to do so who definitely didn’t know the words. When the camera fell on someone with a sign that said “Patrick pee on my shoes,” I just shook my head. I don’t get it, but I don’t need to. I love the fans’ love of this band, and that’s all that matters. “You guys sound awesome!” Pete shouted, before explaining that they would next do a cover “of a guy we’re a fan of,” which was Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” into “What a Catch, Donnie” with Patrick at the keys. At this point, I noticed people holding up actual lighters all across the venue. It’s nice to see that even in the technology age, some things just can’t be replicated with smartphones. (All the iPhones in the world can’t produce the authenticity of an arena full of Bics.) Patrick took a moment to give a “real quick shout out to my brother, who I think is here,” adding that he “probably wouldn’t be able to play any instruments if not for him.” When the next song began, it was “20 Dollar Nosebleed, and Panic!’s Brendan Urie materialized onstage to help out.
Next came a video clip about punk rock, including lots of anti-rock statements from punk rock’s early days, and some awesome archived clips. While it was entertaining, it was also a great distraction from the band’s absence onstage, as it gave them time to make their way back to the a small stage set up near the stands, at the back of the floor for a brief acoustic set, starting with “I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You).” Pete joked, “Patrick, this is what you meant by ‘let’s get intimate down by the beach?'” and something about a bottle of wine, as well as an “entire record about blue balls” (Take This to Your Grave). “Let’s do something from that record!” “If we’re going to, I wanna hear you guys sing, alright? That means you!” As expected, the crowd was happy to oblige, and “Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy” followed. It was gorgeous, and I noted that I was “glad to make this song’s acquaintance.” It’s true: I need some more Fall Out Boy in my collection, as I was beginning to discover. Then, just as quickly as it had begun, the moment on the B stage was over, and with a killer drum solo from Andy Hurley back on the main stage, and a light show to match, the band returned for the infectious “Dance, Dance,” followed by “Just One Yesterday,” during which all their guitars had a rad green glow-in-the-dark effect I can’t remember having seen before.
“Are you still with us right now? It requires real dedication to work this late at night. Scream with me! ‘I! Don’t! Care!'” The audience shouted back in unison as “I Don’t Care” began next, and somehow it was the first time all night that I noticed Andy at the drums. My note: “this just in: shirtless tattooed drummer is sexy.” I don’t know if he’d been shirtless all night or not, and if so why it took me so long to notice, but the guy’s covered in tattoos and it was fun to check them out as he sat up there beating the drums for all he was worth. I could feel the bass and the beat in my chest like it was literally pumping the blood through me. Someone made mention of the “album we put out this year,” and continued to explain how these days everyone is expected to be airbrushed and photo-shopped on magazine covers, and auto-tuned on the radio to sound like robots, prompting the band to call their album Save Rock and Roll as if to say, ‘is that the best you’ve got?’ They admitted that it “would’ve been ‘two middle fingers in the air,’ but they wouldn’t sell that!” The album’s smash single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” followed this explanation, and really did light it up: not so much with actual light, but just the energy of the performance and the crowd’s reaction. I’ve loved this song since the first time I heard it, and it was absolutely electric that night. As the song wrapped, the words “SAVE ROCK AND ROLL” flashed up onto the screen, ending the band’s full set.
When they returned moments later for the encore, the crowd went crazy enough that I laughed and wondered if they actually think encores are spontaneous these days. In my mind, it’s not as if the number of “encore, encore!” chants or volume of the crowd dictate the likelihood of an encore: they’ve either planned to do it, or didn’t. Unless it’s a time constraint, I expect these days for that sort of thing to be planned out months or weeks in advance. But I digress… “Sing with us!” During “Save Rock and Roll,” I noticed two things I must mention. First, Pete Wentz is a rock star. He has that je ne sais quoi that you just can’t fake, a bona fide star quality. Yes, he’s far more handsome than he really has a right to be, and yes, I understand why some people wish that he didn’t pull deserved focus from awesome vocalist Patrick, but… There’s no getting around the lure of Pete Wentz. I wasn’t really prepared to come home with a schoolgirl crush and yet…there you have it. Second, let’s go back to Patrick and give him his due. On the album version of this song, there’s a guest appearance by Sir Elton John (wow). Live, Patrick does that part, but he sings his best Elton impression and holy hell is it a good one. I swear, I did a double take. I knew Elton John wasn’t there, but it completely threw me. It was uncanny and unbelievable, in the best way possible.
As photo after photo of iconic musician flashed on the screen, the crowd went crazy for favorite performers like Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and many more as “Thnks fr th Mmrs” began. “We were wondering if we could take a picture with all of you before we leave San Francisco?!” And then a heartfelt thanks: “we get a chance to do this every night because we’re very, very lucky. We appreciate that you choose us, even though we’re just hanging out, being dorks. Thanks!” And, for good measure, “you’re fucking awesome hosts.” Appropriate oldie “Saturday” closed the encore, and when Pete stuck out his tongue, I had to wonder who was first with the tongue thing: Pete or Miley? As we left the venue, Dakin and I debated over the value of said bassist. Dakin said they’d be better without him; he’s one of those who thinks uber-talented Patrick deserves every inch of the limelight, and I understand that. But in Pete’s defense, how can you say they’d be better without them when he’s the primary lyricist? I think the duo of Wentz and Stump is brilliant as is, and I look forward to experiencing it again live sometime.
I could, however, live without the screaming…