By Joe Kleon
Last night at the Wolstein Center, Fall Out Boy played their first Cleveland show in over four years. The Chicago quartet—vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley—showed no signs of rust, however, during a nearly 90-minute set that spanned their entire career. In fact, the notoriously hit-or-miss live band has grown into a rather polished concert act since returning from a several year break and releasing a new album, Save Rock and Roll.
The night opened on a dramatic note with new song “The Phoenix.” Each band member came out wearing ski masks (a nod to the ongoing video saga that accompanies Save Rock and Roll) and stomped around the stage along with the thundering orchestral-metal stomp. To the screaming delight of the crowd, things quickly lightened up with beloved songs from Fall Out Boy’s chugging-punk-pop salad days, “I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me” and “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me’."
From there, the band alternated hit after hit (the emo-pop platonic ideal “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” a searing rock 'n' roll take on “Thriller” or theatrical “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”) with new songs. Fall Out Boy’s musical progression was quite obvious especially during the latter category; more recent tunes tended to be grounded in more straightforward pop- and soul-influences (“Alone Together,” “Just One Yesterday”). As a result, this could make for some jarring pacing; groove-heavy songs such as “I Don’t Care” (featuring Wentz skipping to the Adam Ant-esque drum clicks) and “Dance, Dance” connected, while the theatrical “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” felt a bit tired.
Thankfully, the show had enough curveballs to keep things interesting. Panic! At The Disco frontman Brendon Urie popped up on stage to add vocals and flair to “20 Dollar Nose Bleed,” which segued directly from “What A Catch, Donnie,” featuring Stump on piano. A brief two-song acoustic set at the back of the floor featured “I'm Like A Lawyer With The Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)" and the campfire-esque sing-along “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy.”
What stood out is how much gratitude indeed permeated the concert—whether it was toward the fans for sticking around, rock and roll for existing or about the fact that Fall Out Boy were back making music. During the dynamic, aggressive “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” the entire crowd pumped fists and screamed the chorus at top volume. It was during this song that the night’s sense of camaraderie and community really came together—and it felt like the good guys had won.
Openers Panic! At The Disco are no strangers to turmoil; most recently, drummer Spencer Smith has been unable to play with the band due to a battle with substance abuse. Still, their energetic, 10-song, 45-minute set showed no signs of distress. That was mainly due to lithe frontman Brendon Urie. Sporting a glittery blue blazer for the first few songs, he commanded the stage with a mix of charisma, jittery banter, head banging and even a backflip.
These moves never overshadowed Panic!’s music, which has also embraced elements such as hip-hop (the monstrous, bass-heavy new single “Miss Jackson”) and electropop (“The Ballad of Mona Lisa”). In fact, the entire set’s focus on danceable, beat-first arrangements matched the vibe of their forthcoming album, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! Urie was a tad bit hoarse at times, but belted out the whirling-dervish stomp “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)” in a strong, clear voice—and throughout the set, he unleashed a guttural scream that sounded like vintage David Lee Roth. His sense of showmanship carried the show, though, especially on old fan favorites “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” and “Nine In The Afternoon.”
Columbus, Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots opened the night with a brief but commanding 30-minute set. The band’s music is best described as mass mayhem; booming dance beats, forceful piano and hip-hop grooves coalesce in songs with smart lyrics. This combination easily filled the Wolstein Center and energized the still-arriving crowd.