Thursday, November 02, 2023

Fall Out Boy Bring the Tricks and Treats to Birmingham

Hallow’een is a time for treats and in Birmingham, 15,000 fans were treated to a spectacularly spooky special show as part of Fall Out Boy’s ‘So Much For (Tour) Dust’ tour, promoting the launch of their latest studio album, ‘So Much (For) Stardust’.

Supported by Nothing, Nowhere and PVRIS, bands and fans joined in with the spirit of the season with some devilishly clever costumes, staging and song choices. Making enough noise to wake the dead, the show took fans on a journey more thrilling than any ghost train.

Fall Out Boy, if you have been living in a cave for the past 20 or so years, are an American new wave pop punk band comprising Patrick StumpPete WentzAndy Hurley and Joe Trohman. Trohman had taken a break from performing, his words appropriately being that he’s “stepping away from Fall Out Boy for a spell”. Luckily, he’s back to good health and was in great form alongside his bandmates.

Fans were dying to get in - they began queuing for hours before the doors opened, hoping to get to the front of the main standing section of the Birmingham Utilita Arena. Their reward came during Fall Out Boy’s set when, between songs, bass guitarist Wentz would shout “Knock knock!” with the response from the audience “Trick or treat!” bringing handfuls of sweets thrown out from the stage.

The staging was phenomenal, reminiscent of Kiss or Metallica, even Pink Floyd with moving lighting rigs, spooky woods, pyrotechnics, bubbles and a giant dog’s head swinging from the gantry, a reference to the cover of the latest album.

Opening with ‘Love From the Other Side’, the supernatural theme was off to a flying start. By the third song, ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’, the heat was turned up quite literally with jets of flame leaping to the back of the band, balls of flame to the side and even a flame thrower on the end of Wentz’s bass guitar. The band were in Hallow’een costume too, as Beetlejuice, Grandma Wolf, Thor and a Ghost Buster, though this changed during the show as the temperature got a little uncomfortable for wigs and masks.

Performing an astonishing set of 28 songs, Fall Out Boy included a broad selection of their own catalogue plus some interesting cover versions. One part of the show involved having a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ choose the next song, although since it was an animation, the choice may not have been as big a surprise to the band as it was to the audience – ‘Hallow’een’ by Misfits

At one point, everyone except Stump left the stage as a grand piano was wheeled on. Saying that he had no idea what he was going to play, he coasted through a medley of delicately and passionately arranged numbers, starting with ‘I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)’, passing through ‘Golden’ and ending with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’, in which he was joined by Wentz for a blistering finish after which Wentz climbed onto the piano for the biggest surprise of the night. Slowly pulling up a black cloth, Wentz teased the audience and as the cloth fell, Wentz had gone. Not an unusual magic trick in itself but it gave the whole show a sharp left turn that was brilliant in its conception and flawless in its execution, even more so when Wentz then appeared in full rock god mode, seemingly out of nowhere, in the middle of the arena with the audience distracted by the rest of the band playing a familiar cover version; ‘Enter Sandman’, confirming the Metallica influence. Wentz played his part in ‘Dance, Dance’ from the centre of the arena, weaving his way back to the stage to the delight, even ecstasy of the fans who were lucky enough to line his route.

At various points, the arena was filled with the bright lights of phone torches of ‘Save Rock and Roll’, the pink lights of ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race’ and the flying bubbles of ‘Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes’. One of the challenges for a band playing in such a large venue is being able to create an experience which fills the space and engages fans who are right at the back as much as those at the front. Whilst the fans crammed up against the pit got the sweets, or candy as Wentz would say, those further back got to see the full spectacle of the show. There’s no doubt that all of them were fully involved in the shared experience and fan favourites such as ‘The Phoenix’, ‘Uma Thurman’, ‘Dead on Arrival’ and ‘My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)’ made for an evening packed from cradle to grave with spooktacular thrills.

Despite the hard-edged punk pop sound and the ghoulish presentation, the band showed a great deal of sensitivity too. Stump commented on how awe-inspiring it was to play in a large venue for a great audience and at one point a fan was injured in a fall at the pit edge. Stump immediately stopped ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ and only restarted when the fan was safe. Wentz gave an impassioned speech, encouraging fans to enter into the spirit of Hallow’een, much like the spirit of Christmas. He urged fans to embrace their quirks and individualities, to be themselves and to enjoy the weirder side of life, something which 15,000 people in Birmingham didn’t seem to have any difficulty with on this most frightful of nights.

So Much For (Tour) Dust takes Fall Out Boy across UK, Germany, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and back to US, ending in April 2024.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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