After some shenanigans with my media pass, and after meeting up with KYS photographer Maddie Bell, we eventually make our way into the Riverstage for tonight’s sold out Fall Out Boy tour stop. Thankfully, an overwhelming portion of the crowd is all-ages and chaperoned, so there is a very minimal line at the beer tent, or what I like to call ‘jaded merch’, and I make quick use of it.
When the stage lights dim for the entrance of kickass hometown heroes WAAX (who no photographers were allowed to snap), the adoring FOB fans upfront go nuts. The five-piece launch in to tracks off their stand-out 2017 ‘Wild & Weak’ EP, performing with a gigantic banner logo behind them in bumblebee yellow & black. Even after a rollicking set at BIGSOUND last year and landing support slots with fellow Brisbanites like Dune Rats and Violent Soho, it’s still weird seeing WAAX on such a huge stage, but they’re totally owning it tonight. There’s a sense of genuine amazement in affable front-woman Marie ‘Maz’ DeVita’s voice when she says: “Holy shit… This is definitely the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to.” Numbers like ‘This Everything’ and ‘Wild & Weak’ go down a real treat, with guitarists Ewan Birtwell and Chris Antolak doing their best to work the stage corners and get very physical. I feel slightly bad for drummer Tom Bloomfield, who – while clearly an admirable skinsman – suffers from a bit of a poor mix from our position up on the hill, with his snare and kick sounding like a clipping eggbeater, interspersed with the occasional booming tom hit and sizzling cymbal.
Thankfully, the mix gets cleaner as the quintet rolls along, throwing a sonic curveball into their set with a surprisingly punchy take on Courtney Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian At Best’. With each sarcastic line, DeVita gets more and more venomous, before practically roaring “I think you’re a joke!” in the final chorus. The band then take this opportunity to “road-test” some new material from what we hope is their upcoming album debut (fingers crossed). The tunes are damned pleasing to the ear, showing some noticeable songwriting growth, and the group gets rabid applause from the crowd as they’re bathed in red and white hues. To close out their set, WAAX finish off with ‘You Wouldn’t Believe’ and hit single ‘Same Same’, which still has one of the best indie-rock lead riffs this side of ‘Silent Alarm’-era Bloc Party. Great stuff!
It’s the between-band portion of a bill, where I like to play ‘Gig Bingo’. Weirdest t-shirt? Some young lass with a top that simply states: ‘Fuck Coriander’. Fair enough. Most popular hairstyle? That not-quite pigtails, Princess Leia bun thing, that looks like a Sailor Moon character trait. Most depressing adult in attendance? That poor dude who’s clearly chaperoning his sister and her friends and then forced to up his selfie game mid learning said selfie game. Best overheard conversation? “Oh my god, they’re giving out free water down there… I wonder if Fall Out Boy touched it?” All that’s missing is a Legs Eleven and a god-damn meat tray.
Anyway! Now, let me get something out of the way real quick: I do like Chicago outfit Fall Out Boy quite a lot; I rate ‘Take This To Your Grave’ and ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ as certifiable pop-punk classics; I thought ‘Infinity On High’ and ‘Folie à Deux’ had some great songs respectively; and I haven’t listened to a full Fall Out Boy album since their hiatus and subsequent reformation. So, seeing the band’s performance tonight was both entertaining and intellectually fascinating. From ex-hardcore dudes playing Saves The Day covers to underground pop-punkers, to a fully-fledged, Top 40 ‘rock band’ with soccer-mum crossover appeal, one thing is certain: Fall Out Boy definitely know how to put on a fucking show.
There’s a massive screen visualizer behind the stage, slightly obscured by drummer Andy Hurley’s impressively stacked drum riser. As the show kicks off, the waves frozen on screen come alive, before an ominous countdown timer, well, counts down to a message which reads: SILENCE PLEASE AND TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES. Then we’re immediately hit with the one-two punch of ‘The Phoenix’ and ‘Irresistible’ as the quartet strut their stuff and work the crowd like seasoned pros. It’s all big riffs, flashing lights, booming back-beats and soaring vocals—you know, pop music 101.
As they move through their catalogue over a 20-song set, tonight’s headliners create numerous highlights and some weird asides: the joyous chorus and late 2000’s guitar chords of ‘Hum Hallelujah’ get people grooving, as confetti cannons pop off into the front row; breakthrough single ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’ gets a feature, and makes me feel all nostalgic; the band decides to play ‘Immortals’ complete with the Big Hero 6 movie tie-in playing on the screen visualizer (it was as whack as it sounds); at one point during the title track from 2015’s ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ there’s a hijacked Trump slogan which reads ‘MAKE AMERICA PSYCHO AGAIN’ and I ruminate on that for (probably) too long; whereas ‘Centuries’ finds lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Patrick Stump and lead guitarist Joe Trohman roaming the stage and amping up the crowd.
At this point, the stage crew quickly roll a piano on to the stage and we move into what I’m calling the ‘neo-Elton John’ portion of the set, with a swelling performance of the ostentatious ‘Save Rock & Roll’ and a stripped back version of ‘Young & Menace’. That is if Sir Elton John was jacked up on Monster Energy drink and wore a baseball cap with (regrettably) short sideburns. With that out of the way, the stage empties out save for Hurley, who takes to his riser once again to bust out a huge drum medley. There’s no denying that the dude’s a complete rig (listen to SECT, Arma Angelus or Racetraitor, and get back to me), and watching him punish his kit with a ‘I’m taking a ten-pound shit’-look of concentration to samples as wide-ranging as Kendrick Lamar’s ‘HUMBLE’, to Blur’s ‘Song 2’, to straight-up hardcore cuts is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It still trips me out that, purely because of Fall Out Boy, there are less than six degrees of separation between Earth Crisis’ vegan straight-edge signifier Karl Buechner and Newlyweds Jessica Simpson. The pop-culture zeitgeist is fucking real people.
Approaching the half-way point, the opening snare hits of ‘Dance, Dance’ send the crowd into overdrive. Somehow bassist Pete Wentz has magically appeared on a separate stage in front of the sound desk tent, up the hill, clad in high-vis and facing his brothers on the stage. During ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes),’ another confetti cannon appears to go off directly in front of Wentz, spraying the crowd below in a somewhat unintentional phallic display, and I can’t help but recall Wentz’s dick pic fiasco from years past. (Ah, the Internet). It’s here that the band segues into a weird, film vignette featuring those bizarre, H.R. Pufnstuf camel things from the ‘M A N I A’ single videos. They talk backstage, write the band off with some terrible dad jokes, and then come out on stage and throw some free shit into the crowd. Cool…
Getting back to the rock show business, ‘I Don’t Care’ is still as ridiculously catchy as when you first heard it (and couldn’t stop hearing it), and it comes complete with a hilarious video montage of various cultural icons flipping the bird. Speaking of catchy, do you remember ‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race’? Don’t worry if you don’t, because apparently there’s a couple of thousand people in Brisbane tonight who do, and are perfectly content to scream along and completely drown out Stump & Co. Wentz introduces ‘Hold Me Tight Or Don’t’ as a song about being in text reply purgatory (something which I find all too relatable at this present time), but when Stump moves to a slowed-down chord progression at the song’s end, we all know what’s coming next. Arguably the Fall Out Boy song – ‘Grand Theft Autumn’ (Where Is Your Boy)’. This track is still a fucking banger, and I find myself singing along to it, standing beside punters who were likely five or six years old when it came out.
Backing this up with ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs’ (remember when we didn’t use vowels?) throws tonight into hormone overload, with couples on the hill compelled to display out and out PDA, and you could almost get a contact pregnancy just from inhaling deeply. Their set closes with a rousing performance of ‘Champion’ and then the stage lights go black. With the encore essentially a formality at this point, everyone chills and waits for the band to return. Which – surprise! – they do, declaring that they have a few more tracks for us. ‘Uma Thurman’ is a song literally about it’s title, with clips of Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill on the visualizer, to really drive the point home. ‘My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)’ lets the band use some fire jets (of course), and they do indeed ‘light them up’. Obligatory closer ‘Saturday’ starts soft but quickly builds to the final burst of expended energy for the evening, and we quickly bail down the hill to avoid the escaping hordes. Tonight was billed as ‘The M A N I A Tour’, and for Fall Out Boy at least, I feel like we can say ‘mission accomplished’.
All photo credit: Maddie Bell.
Check out Fall Out Boy’s remaining Aussie dates below:
Friday, March 2nd, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney NSW (Lic/AA)
Saturday, March 3rd, Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne VIC (LIC/AA) SOLD OUT
Monday, March 5th, Red Hill Auditorium, Perth WA (Lic/AA)