Review: Fall Out Boy

Delight for elder emos at Manchester's Band on the Wall, 15 March

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When Chicago pop-punk icons Fall Out Boy announced an impromptu hit-and-run visit to Manchester a couple of weeks back, it sent Northern emo lovers into a bit of a tizzy. Not only because it meant an arena-sized alt-rock band would be squeezing into one of the city’s smallest and most beloved venues for one of just two UK dates – but also because emo music has recently been having a later-life resurgence.

Perhaps it can all be traced back to 2022’s When We Were Young festival, the Las Vegas-based nostalgia trip with a line-up boasting a who’s-who of acts that filled the pre-Spotify MP3 players of every early noughties rock fan. Then again, maybe adult life has just become too miserable to bear. Either way, the term “elder emo” – which refers to now-adult pop-punk fans with a penchant for the dramatic – has swiftly risen to the fore.

Throw Fall Out Boy’s new throng of younger fans into the mix (having released seven studio albums over 14 years, they’ve never really gone away) and tickets to this super-intimate, 500-capacity show were like gold dust – or should that be stardust? Here to promote their long-awaited eighth record due out on 24 March, fans were required to sign up for a pre-sale code and, in some cases, pre-order new album So Much (For) Stardust, to qualify for tickets – but even then chances of actually getting them were pretty much next to zero.

Arriving at the venue shortly before kick-off, crumpled deckchairs and broken umbrellas outside provide evidence of diehard fans vying for last-minute return tickets. Even getting through the door of the freshly refurbished space gives proceedings a feeling of exclusivity and an electric buzz of anticipation. Everyone knows they’re about to see something special. Fans of all ages tightly pack themselves into the standing area and cosy balcony space, with plenty of solo gig-goers who managed to secure just one precious ticket clutching a pint and anxiously checking their phones.

The younger crowd are rightfully buzzing. Meanwhile, the older lot – mostly those elder emos – look cautiously optimistic about potentially experiencing something that may become the closest they ever get to revisiting their teenage rebellion years. It’s 8.20pm and the band isn’t due on until nine, which makes it all the more exhilarating when the lights suddenly go out and Band On The Wall erupts.

Frontman Patrick Stump, flanked by bassist Pete Wentz, leads Manchester on what is essentially a greatest hits show

Taking to the tiny stage, the band launch into new album earworm Love From The Other Side, proving that while they may be older, they still know how to build a pop-punk banger. Unsurprisingly, the crowd goes wild, yet for such a tightly-packed and hotly-anticipated show they remain mostly courteous and accommodating throughout. Maybe we have the sensible elder emos to thank for that.

Most of the pre-show chatter revolved around what tonight’s set list might be – will it reward long-time fans or simply become an extended advert for new tracks? As it turns out, fans needn’t have worried, as frontman Patrick Stump, flanked by bassist Pete Wentz, leads Manchester on what is essentially a greatest hits show.

Sugar, We’re Going Down, perennial emo hit and arguably the band’s biggest track, makes an appearance early doors, while fan-favourite heavy-hitters from each of the band’s studio albums get an airing. Everything you’d hope to hear makes a welcome appearance, from Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy from 2003’s Take This To Your Grave to 2005’s Infinity On High’s opener Thriller. Even deeper cuts like Calm Before The Storm from the band’s 2003 debut Evening Out With Your Girlfriend get a rare dust-off alongside newer tracks from the band’s yet-to-be-released return.

In the midst of the action, Wentz doesn’t miss a chance to let Manchester know just how much the city and its musical heritage means to him and his band. But before things get too serious he keeps the fun flowing. “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall,” he jokes, before launching into another hit. Meanwhile, it may be mid-March but it looks like we’ve caught tonight’s crowd on Christmas morning. Grown men are screaming, misty-eyed strangers are linking arms and swaying, and people who are still dressed like they’ve arrived from their sensible day jobs are dancing as if they’ve suddenly remembered they don’t have school tomorrow.

Soon, the familiar chords of nostalgic Take This To Your Grave hit Saturday are ringing out: a track that any Fall Out Boy fan knows typically marks the end of their live sets. Harking back to simpler times, this show closer feels all too fitting. “Saturday,” sings Stump. “When these open doors were open-ended.” It’s a bittersweet reminder of that ethereal, fleeting, anything’s possible feeling of youth that many no doubt remember well but tonight’s elder emos got to actually revisit first hand.

Photo: Nat Wood

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