Live: Fall Out Boy and Paramore Monumentour
The summer music season gives one a myriad of live music options from festivals to city-sponsored events and tours that roll through the nation's amphitheaters. The Monumentour rolled into town last week featuring Paramore and hometown heroes Fall Out Boy. The co-headline jaunt between Fall Out Boy and Paramore began in mid-June and will run until early September performing in forty-four markets. Those of you worried you are missing out due to two headliners having to share a bill have no fear, each act performed tight eighty-minute sets with virtually no down time and a total of thirty-two songs between the two acts. In addition, opener New Politics played seven songs. This is the rare summer package that offers the fans a great bang for the buck as they are given the opportunity to see two bands arguably both at the peak of their powers. I had originally planned to focus my review solely on Fall Out Boy, but for eighty-minutes, Paramore delivered a high-octane set that would leave anyone impressed. Something the older generation may have a hard time coming to grips with is how essential bands like Paramore and Fall Out Boy are to rock n' roll at this given moment. It is easy to dismiss them as pop bands hiding behind earsplitting guitars, but that conjecture was silenced upon seeing them in concert. They may not have their heaviness or pedigree of a band like the Foo Fighters or be critics darlings like Arcade Fire, but that only makes the fire in their bellies burn brighter, which spilled out on stage this past Friday.
Paramore began their show with a bang, literally with ten-feet streamers shooting out into the crowd. "Still Into You", "That's What You Get" and "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" grabbed the crowd served notice early that this would not be a standard pop show but a rock one with the amps cranked to eleven. Paramore may not be innovators but something within Williams that takes over when she is on that stage. I would dare say her stage presence and command of an audience surpasses even Gwen Stefani's. In the flesh, Haley Williams and the five-piece band are a force that was firing on all cylinders with a magnetic presence. At one point she addresses the fans on the lawn and told them "I want you to know you make the show" winning them over. They returned the favor by singing "Ignorance" with the same intensity as Williams. Her stage attire consisted of a sports bra, kneepads, boxer shorts and a pink microphone, which stood in contract to her blue hair. On the surface, it may not appear glamorous but watching her, you realize this is not a fashion show but an eighty-minute workout where she combed the stage from top to bottom. The three members of Paramore (Williams on vocals, bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York) were on the main stage while three auxiliary musicians were above them on a mounted platform.
Having a casual listening relationship with the band, I was taken aback at how unrelenting their performance was. I was not prepared for Williams' command of the audience, best exemplified on "Last Hope", the spiraling bass grooves of "Fast in My Car" and the strobe light haze of "Misery Business". She is charming, sincere and gives off an air of innocence. Classic rock bands take advantage of their fans and sell them a dream whereas this younger generation of artists know how lucky they are, and do not their audience for granted. As I gaped back to see the crowd, I saw an audience whose eyes were fixated on the stage with every fan mouthing the words in tandem with Williams. Halfway through "Let the Flames Begin", Williams pulled a fan named Alexi from the stage and handed her a golden microphone and she proceeded to take the song over and rode it until its completion. As the band finished their set with "Ain't It Fun" the crew began tearing the stage down for a quick turnaround for Fall Out Boy, but not before Haley Williams ventured to both sides of the stage to wave goodbye to her fans. She may only be twenty-five years old, but she roams the stage like someone twice her age. This was the first but not last time I will see Paramore.
Fall Out Boy made an unexpected return on February 4, 2013 at the Subterranean club in Chicago's Wicker Park. It has been over three-years since they had performed together but the Chicago show marked the beginning of their rebirth. Over the last seventeen months, I watched Fall Out Boy gracefully reenter the music marketplace. Rock n' roll reunions are a dime-a-dozen with parties often putting differences aside for big paydays. Fans go and pay good money for a whiff of nostalgia and often for a chance to see an act they never saw before. There is nothing wrong with living in your past, but for Fall Out Boy, this was not about reliving past glories but creating new ones along the way. I have seen Fall Out Boy four times on this album cycle and every show was unique. The first was in a theatre in Indianapolis, the second was at Riot Fest, the third was to celebrate the PAX AM Days EP at the Metro in Chicago and now in front of 27,000 fans on the Monumentour tour with Paramore. Their climb back to the top has been a joy to watch. Fall Out Boy has played the game flawlessly over the last seventeen months never hitting a bum note in the delivery of their material or the promotion of this record. Let us look at how engaging it has been to be a fan of this band:
* The surprise announcement of the record in February of 2013.
* A club tour that where the band undercharged ($35) to ensure across-the-board sell-outs.
*Carefully placed interviews and promotion leading up to the album's release in April 2013.
*A punk-hard core EP PAX AM Days produced by Ryan Adams.
* A brilliant collection of videos for every song on the album culminating in a mini film "The Young Blood Chronicles" with guest spots by Tommy Lee, Courtney Love and Elton John.
*The co-headline tour with Paramore entitled Monumentour
A giant curtain covered the stage prior to their Monumentour set. While a series of pyrotechnic blasts occurred, the curtain dropped to reveal two upside-down triangles on either side of Andy Hurley's elevated drum kit. Opening amidst fire and flames, "The Phoenix", found singer Patrick Stump, bassist Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman emerge above Hurley onto a platform where they proceeded to unleash their eighty-minute set to one of the most engaged audiences I've ever been a part of. I went from being a casual admirer of the band to believer back in the fall of 2007 when I saw the band perform one of the greatest performances I've been fortunate to lay witness to. Since then, I have watched the band continually evolve and never falter. Even when the band was having inner hemorrhage, they still delivered some of their best work. Side projects like the Damned Things and Stump's dazzling solo album Soul Punk demonstrated their talents outside of the unit of Fall Out Boy, but they are at their best when working together.
The army of 27.000 made "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" and "Thnks fr th Mmrs" particularly memorable as band an fan united in a display of give-and-take so tremendous, even the haters would find it astonishing. "Alone Together" with its accompany pyrotechnics was another highlight with Stump's vocals which veered between muscular and agile. Song-after-song Fall Out Boy continued the frenzied approach as the crowd reached deafening levels. "Sugar, We're Goin Down" found the fans on the lawn unhinged, on the New order-esque "Miss Missing You" Stump was sleek offering a melding R&B/soul croon few others working today can convey. "Dance, Dance" found Wentz and Trohman on a riser by the sound booth and a dueling drum solo by Hurley and Stump was fierce and fast never allowing the momentum to be lost. Sometimes the greatness of a musician is not in what he plays but what he does not play. I must give special mention to guitarist Joe Trohman's riffs, which provided devastating blows yet never overshadowed the songs. He is a team player. Even when I watched him in the Damned Things back in 2011, his guitar playing was notable while never overshadowing his other band mates. His playing reminds me of Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora and Metallica's Kirk Hammett; both guitarists who know the significance of not letting their 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.
During the show both Wentz and Stump took time to reminisce about seeing shows in the same venue when it was called the World Music Theatre (Stump saw his first show there in 1992, Midnight Oil, and Wentz recalled seeing Iron Maiden there). You could tell playing this venue was not a normal show stop for them, but one where they know they are walking on a stage that carried their heroes and their hope, as mentioned by Wentz, is that someone in that crowd will make it to that stage as well. A choice cover of Queen's "We Are the Champions" featured Stump on a piano that ascended from beneath the stage. A few weeks earlier, I saw a reformed Queen + Adam Lambert perform the same song on their tour opener in Chicago, but there was something heartrending about watching Stump hit those harmonies with stride before segueing into "Save Rock and Roll", arguably their greatest anthem. The lyrics is about finding your place and loving it within an inch of itself. The families we find and make are nothing short of miracles. They are epic accomplishments. This is a band not taking their family of fans for granted. The battle cry of "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" was accentuated by blasts of fire and a crowd in complete seduction who turned the venue into a house of worship. This album and this band could not have chosen a better time to come back as they confront the hate straight on, while gripping their audience with a tight embrace most other acts would not consider. In a day and age where the static of life can be so deafening it blocks out your own thoughts. Fall Out Boy and Save Rock and Roll delves deep into a source of humanity that's tangible through power chords, a soulful singer and ambiguous lyrics that engage and enthrall. More than a year after it's release Save Rock and Roll continues to invigorate with its eclectic musical styles and unrelenting drive.
There is a palpable energy in their presentation of the material from Save Rock and Roll. Not every artist has a tank of unlimited inspiration. Can you bring together not just the occasional hit single but also a series of three or four records that speak o your audience while fulfilling the inner creative artist? Over the last dozen years, Fall Out Boy has done all of this. From Take This To Your Grave in 2003 through 2008's Folie à Deux the band crafted four records that showed enormous intensification with every release and I'm not judging it simply by sales. Hardcore Fall Out Boy fans believe Folie to be the band's masterwork despite it's failure to have a lasting impact on the charts. There is an arc to their craft and anyone who witnesses their live show knows they have a zeal for the material. Underlying the pop melodies is a collection of songs that speak to the band's core.
Records like Save Rock and Roll, my vote for the best record of 2013, fly in the face of the elite press and those who don't believe a band like Fall Out Boy deserves their time or their respect. It is a well-crafted collection of songs with infectious hooks, melodies, concise arrangements and themes that strike at the heart of anyone willing to dedicate their unbiased time to it. I have always felt the venom spewed at the band came more from the genre they have been associated with, emo, rather than the actual quality of the music. When Fall Out Boy named their album Save Rock and Roll they were not being literal, but in the process found themselves once again. I have returned to their albums repeatedly over the last seven years and with each listen, I uncover a newfound view of the music and love for this band that for my money is the best American rock band at this moment. A lesser band would split apart at the seams and reconvene a decade down the road when the money has run out. Instead, they came back and mattered once again. In the end, their lives have bled over into these songs and performances and you can never ask anything more from an artist. The Monumentour ends in early September- get your tickets now.
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
Live: Fall Out Boy and Paramore Monumentour
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