The rise to the top of the modern-rock heap has certainly been a quick one for Fall Out Boy, Chicago’s 5-year-old modern-rock band of the moment. Headlining arenas on the strength of one hit major-label album is certainly a business risk; it’s likely that many of the assembled teens had not even heard of the band one or two years ago. A lack of developmental savvy was evident in the quartet’s hollow perf.
The group’s very physical playing style packed loads of energy, and early on in its hour-plus slot the big crowd did react to the exciting mix of bright flashing lights, a giant cartoonish backdrop, and non-stop action on two large overhead video screens. The players, however, seemed more focused on their well-rehearsed stage moves than expanding their “pop-core” music. The resulting output was long on attitude but short on substance.
Many of the group’s frantic songs reflect a youthful defiance in the face of expected disappointment, not unlike the majority of modern punk bands. Yet in front of such a large aud the members fell into typical arena-rock trappings of posing and shout-outs that ultimately served to dull the otherwise compelling message.
“Tonight is all about friends,” reported breathless vocalist-guitarist Patrick Stump during the intro of the road song “Homesick at Spacecamp,” but when he urged the males in the house to yell back, their near-silence was deafening and deflating. The sharp melodies and tight execution of their platinum-certified “From Under the Cork Tree” (Island) album were lost amidst the flash-pot explosions and cacophonous sound mix.
Second-billed the All-American Rejects, another recent pop-punk garage band made good, fared somewhat better, though they too seemed bewildered by the prospect of entertaining such a mammoth crowd. “Night Drive,” an urgent break-up ode, was a propulsive kick-off for their 45-minute set, while “Swing, Swing” and the Brit-pop shaded “Time Stands Still” closed their entry with crowd-pleasing vigor.