Fall Out Boy: The Road To Wrigley
When the Chicago Cubs ended the 2012 season, they were 61-101. It was their worst season since 1966, a year in which the Beatles were still a touring entity. It was only the third time since 1870 they had over 100 losses, but it was a new low point for the team. Cub fans would usually shrug it off and say "there's always next year", but what differentiated this year was that 2012 was viewed as a year of rebuilding. Under new ownership, the team slowly became a contender that would end the longest draught in American sports when the Cubs won their first World Series in 2016. Around the time the Cubs played their final game was played in the 2012 season, a local Chicago band was plotting a return that they weren't sure anyone wanted. Fall Out Boy -vocalist and guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley - emerged in 2003 and over a six-year period achieved four Gold albums and graduated from clubs to arenas and was the preeminent band in the emo movement. They went on hiatus in 2009 and no one knew when they would return it at all. During intense band discussions in 2012, they decided to reform and record a new album…in secret. In a day and age where social media was prevalent, this was a near impossible feat and one they pulled off.
Being in a band isn't simple; you are continually fighting for a democracy within its confines. Rock bands are different from sports teams, as it's vital to keep the chemical bonds that that birthed their magic in the first place. You can't trade a guitarist for a member-to-be-named-later and be an efficient group. Some acts have a rotating door of musicians and it works, but Fall Out Boy's nucleus wasn't any one or two members, but like U2, only these four personalities can ignite the fire. Losing a member would have modified the molecular structure that made the band stand apart from their peers. Ultimately the band made some key decisions that set them down the path to their headline show at Wrigley Field. They decided to open up the collaboration to all four members, an area where Wentz and Stump handled the majority of the work previously. They chose producer Butch Walker to man their next album (Save Rock and Roll) and their kept the foundation of their management company in place to help steer the ship. No one knew what to expect and they tackled each year, album and tour as building blocks. Instead of ball players and trades, Fall Out Boy's success came from their art and perseverance. Over the last five-plus years, they've been a constant presence, continually growing artistically and significant commercial presence. They've used their home field advantage to good use performing in Chicago nearly a dozen times and virtually every performance has been in a different venue. For a band who had several peaks during their first decade, their rebirth is more than a success story but the equivalent of a championship. Here is how they achieved it.
February 4th, 2013: Subterranean - Chicago, IL
On the morning of February 4th, 2013, Fall Out Boy returned. They stood on the site of the original Comiskey Park, where the notorious Disco Demolition Night occurred in 1979 and burned their previous albums. It was a sign this wasn't a reunion fueled by nostalgia, greatest hits or the past. It was a signal to the future where the band would collectively surge forward. That evening, they performed their first show since 2009 in a blistering 24-song set in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. The show dove deep into their past, providing the fortunate fans a memorable evening, but for the band, this was the first chapter in their rebuilding.
May 16th, 2013: Riviera Theatre - Chicago, IL
Fall Out Boy was meticulous about their return to the stage with a tour booked in clubs and theaters with an average capacity of 3,000. It would have been easy to get a package of acts and head to amphitheaters during the summer, but they left money on the table and for 8-weeks delighted fans with intimate and passionate shows. A highlight of the shows from this leg was the slashing guitar assault of "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes" which Trohman and Wentz played off one another in impeccable accord while Hurley pummeled his drums within an inch of his life. Throughout the entire set, Hurley was a revelation. Lots of genres and are thrown at Fall Out Boy and the truth is they don't fit into any of them. As uncompromising as some of the arrangements are, Hurley channels his inner Dennis Davis, Bowie's studio drummer from 1975-1980. He's subtle, jazzy and dynamic and watching "The Phoenix" and "Alone Together", you realize Hurley is the engine that propels the band, steers them around trying turns and through musical construction zones that would be disastrous for anyone else behind the kit.
September 13th, 2013: Riot Fest - Chicago, IL
The band launched an arena tour in the fall of 2013, but their Chicago stop was a coveted headline slot at Riot Fest. The set list featured a Naked Raygun cover with their vocalist Jeff Pezzati "New Dreams (which appears as a bonus download on their tenacious PAX AM Days) and also included an appearance of the Stanley Cup which the Chicago Blackhawks won a few months earlier. However, the most illuminating moment was "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)", an intricately crafted pop tune which borrows from hip-hop and a blaze of Sunset Strip metal by way of 1970s Van Halen. The song was a game changer for the band and it was without a peer in the set list as it had arms swaying and singing like no other song performed over the three days of the festival. In this setting, the songs from Save Rock and Roll truly began to come into focus. Fall Out Boy did not simply reunite, they were reborn. It is still one of the best top-to-bottom albums in any genre this decade.
November 29th, 2013: Metro - Chicago, IL
Upping the ante on Record Store Day in 2013, the band released a hardcore punk EP PAX AM Days produced by Ryan Adams. After a signing at Reckless Records, the band performed a special show at the Metro to a capacity crowd of 1,100, across the street from Wrigley Field. When they band hit the stage, they slayed the audience for fourteen unrelenting minutes through the 8-songs on the EP. Diving back into the waters of their past, the songs were raw and unvarnished allowing the band to tap back into their roots showcasing the antithesis of Save Rock and Roll. The evening's MVP was Patrick Stump, who two years previously performed a solo show at the Metro, in support for antiMUSIC's album of the year in 2011, Soul Punk. Stump's forthrightness turns an agnostic into an advocate; his vocals evoke soul bend expectations of the pop spectrum in a way few of his contemporaries would even dare. Stump is never afraid to dive deep into the pool of pop's past, and makes you believe pop music can attain a higher plateau where he imparts intelligence and offers sage counsel into the mix.
July 11th, 2014: First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre - Tinley Park, IL
The band's return to amphitheaters in 2014 was part of a co-headline tour with Paramore. Guitarist Joe Trohman's riffs provided furious blows and yet never overshadowed the songs. He is a team player that will make a sacrifice bunt even though he has the power to hit the ball to Waveland Avenue. Anyone who saw Trohman in his side project with Andy Hurley and members of Anthrax, the Damned Things, could see he was a man obsessed. Like Metallica's Kirk Hammett he grasps the significance of not letting his talents engulf a song. On "'The Take Over, the Breaks Over'" and "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More 'Touch Me'" the bellowing bottom end comes courtesy of Hurley and Wentz but it's the well placed shredding chords of Trohman that defined the sound of Fall Out Boy on this perfect summer night.
January 24th, 2015: Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
No one could have anticipated when the band was touring in the summer of 2014 that there would be a new Fall Out Boy album six months later; American Beauty/American Psycho. It's a continuation of Save Rock and Roll serving as a sister record much like U2's Zooropa, the follow-up to Achtung Baby made during a break on the Zoo TV tour in early 1993. Album-after-album Fall Out Boy create music that is more than made for the radio, they're personal tales of dissolution and redemption. The complex lyrics are always enticing like a David Lynch or Martin Scorsese film, each frame is filled with nuances and details that warrant repeat viewings. Fall Out Boy's records are intricately complex pop masterworks and the Lincoln Hall set showcased their delirious enthusiasm for the new album where "Uma Thurman" received its live debut. Pete Wentz was especially engaged meeting the audience eye-to-eye while tapping into the crowd's energy to capture lightning in a bottle.
April 5th, 2015: Wrigley Field - Chicago, IL
The September 8th performance will technically not be the first time Fall Out Boy performs at Wrigley Field. In 2015 they performed a three-song set as part of Major League Baseball's first Opening Day live featuring "Centuries", "Uma Thurman" and "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)".
July 11th, 2015: First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre - Tinley Park, IL
Touring in support of their number-one album American Beauty / American Psycho, the band showcased several of the songs throughout the show including "Irresistible", the Motley Crue influenced title track (whose rhythm is hell on wheels in concert), the dance-floor inventiveness of "Uma Thurman" and the lead single "Centuries". "The Phoenix" was feverishly performed while the crowd ate up "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More "Touch Me"", "Dance, Dance", "Alone Together", "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" and "Thnks fr th Mmrs". Each and every song shared in a push and pull with the audience. This performance was filmed and released on the DVD/Blu-Ray The Boys of Zummer Tour: Live in Chicago.
March 12th, 2016: United Center - Chicago, IL
Their first show at the United Center had "I Don't Care" with at shuffling beat and arms-to-the-air chorus was a showcase for the swinging pile-driving drums of Hurley. His cymbals and snare are pummeled like equipment in a boxing gym. "Chicago Is So Two Years Ago" was done specifically for the hometown crowd and while some of the audience was not alive when the song was written and recorded, they hung on every note. Everyone in attendance was alive for "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" and its reverberations are still being felt as it made the Madhouse on Madison shake the same way the Bull and Blackhawks did with their world championships.
The evening's most heart-tugging moment was when David Bowie's picture displayed halfway through the performance of "Save Rock and Roll", a gorgeous anthem for the post-modern rock n' roll era. In some ways this is a private moment the band has let us share in. Anyone who has ever picked up an instrument owes a debt to Bowie. Aside from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, there isn't any other musical artist from the last five decades who has influenced modern music more. In 2013 when the band began touring again, the screen behind them showed their influences from the Clash to Jay Z to Kanye to the Ramones serving as a reminder of what it takes to continually inspire and transform. They're acutely aware of who came before and as students of music, they judiciously model their rock template from a multitude of these influences.
September 16th, 2017: Wrigley Field / House of Blues - Chicago, IL
Mania was originally scheduled for a September 2017 release, but the band took more time before releasing it in January of 2018, but an arena tour had already been booked. While there was no Chicago arena on this leg, the band performed a special show at the House of Blues to initiate their charity; Fall Out Boy Fund. It was started as a way for the band to give back to the city of Chicago. The first recipient was Back to the Roots, an organization that brings gardening and food education to schools and helps inspire kids to experience the magic of growing their own food. The funds provided 20,000 elementary school kids in the Chicago area with an organic gardening kit and Back to the Roots curriculum to each student. The current Mania tour will have $1 from every ticket sold donated to the fund to benefit charities throughout Chicago. Before the House of Blues gig, the band foreshadowed their headline stadium show by performing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.
September 8th, 2018: Wrigley Field - Chicago, IL
Leading up to the Wrigley show, the band released a new EP dedicated to the city of Chicago, Lake Effect Kid. The title track dates back to 2008 when a demo was released on a mix tape prior to Folie Ŕ Deux while "City in a Garden" is an ode to Chicago and even the opening beats tip their hat to the Smashing Pumpkins (who also hail from Chicago) track "1979". There's so much pride, adoration and deep love for their home in these three songs. In a day and age where pop music steers towards the safe rather than the adventurous, Fall Out Boy aims for the target building a pop-punk cathedral catalog that is unlike anyone else on the musical landscape. Like Rush before them, they create a sound that is wholly their own, yet they don't receive their dues. Their albums are an unapologetic and immaculate melting pot vessel for their dreams and desires.
It's hard to define championships in the arts; for some it may be a Grammy or an Oscar, but the greatest triumph is survival. Can you continue to make art, evolve and capture imaginations in the process? There's more depth to Fall Out Boy's catalog than anyone wants to give them credit for. Contextualizing the horrors of the 21st century with indirect references to school shootings, the war on terror, obsession, betrayal, lust, longing, searching and loneliness, their music is filled with resolve, written by fans for fans. It's been sixty-seven months since the Subterranean show where the capacity was 400 and at Wrigley Field, they'll add two zeroes to that number for the largest headline show of their career. This is the championship they set their eyes on back in 2012 when the decided to reignite their bonds.
Since 2013, they have achieved three consecutive number-one albums, traveled the globe performing close to five-hundred shows, have over a billion streams on Spotify for just their top five songs and when the dust settles Saturday night, they will know they made it Wrigley Field on their terms with the same team. Wrigley Field has been a concert venue going back to 2005, but there's never been a homecoming like this one where the band grew up in the city, broke out of it and are performing the venue at the peak of the second imperial phase. While the Wrigley Field performance is not the completion of Fall Out Boy's journey, it's the culmination of rebuilding their own franchise and more importantly, their friendships.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMUSIC Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at tonyk AT antiMUSIC DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Fall Out Boy: The Road To Wrigley
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