There were a few moments I was more than a little worried for the health and safety of the band and crowd - there was a genuinely shocking amount of fire and pyrotechnics and giant puppet dog heads involved. But we’ll come back to that.
Starting things off, Carr, a single performer on stage with two other musicians playing what I assume are her songs, worked their way through a handful of those tracks over the course of, thankfully, 25 quick minutes. I’m sure there’s a demographic for this kind of thing - it’s just not me. I was reminded of my time working at Hot Topic, when, ironically, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy started a record label called Decaydance. One of the bands they signed, Millionaires, had a similar faux sex positivity message and it didn’t work for me then, either. Big Olivia Rodriguez vibes - who wears all kinds of other musicians' vibes in her work, so take that as you will.
Next, Royal and The Serpent promised to offer a minor change of pace, but when the banner behind the band slowly dropped, reading “RATS - it stands for Royal and The Serpent, Dumbass,” I was already turned off. I never go into a show not wanting to like a band. In fact, if I’ve never heard one of the openers, I purposely stay away from their music because I want their live show to be my first impression of them. RATS (it stands for Royal and The Serpent, Dumbass) was proficient, the vocals were interesting, and, if nothing else, there was some positive and life affirming messaging to go with their emo Evanescence pastiche of sounds. As a band on a Fall Out Boy tour, they made sense. But that’s about it.
It only rained once on the crowd of about 20K fans at Riverbend last night. Under cover of the roof in front of the stage, and thanks to the odd way sound works in an amphitheatre, the crescendo of screams as the rain came down, arriving in waves and just out of sync with time and space. An oddly fitting tableau as we made it roughly halfway through the evening’s proceedings, when the quick shower ended and the show changed direction. It rained for a few minutes - a good soaking for those camped out on the lawn, the temperature dropping slightly. Then the rain stopped just as Bring Me The Horizon’s crew finished setting up the stage. Well timed, Mother Nature.
Bring Me The Horizon as a band, and as a vessel for the Ollie Sykes fan club, I was at least somewhat familiar with. They arrived on the scene alongside contemporaries like The Devil Wears Prada, but took a somewhat different path as they’ve evolved. What was heavy, driving, metalcore and deathcore adjacent has since turned to slightly more radio friendly rock and alt-metal. They’ve done just fine, and live, it all actually translates surprisingly well. The heavy stuff feels much heavier by comparison, while the slower and somewhat quieter alt-rock-esque stuff does well to break things up between squealing breakdowns and chuggy guitars. Vocalist Ollie Sykes was a bit confused by the lack of movement in the crowd, but after noting the mosh pit quashing layout of the venue, he encouraged folks to participate however they could.
The lawn was invited to get moving, though, with Skyes promising to make the trek from stage to astroturf if they brought things to life. And true to his word, he did it, and I have to say, it was really cool to witness. Fans who purchased lawn tickets were able to high five, hug, sing along, and interact with someone important to them in a way I’m certain no one was expecting. The camera followed him through the crowd as best it could, and it was genuinely moving to see how some fans reacted. Skyes, for all this British braggadocio, does a lot to earn his status as a one to be fawned over. Will I be joining the thrall? No, but I can appreciate just a bit more those who are already there.
As a whole, Bring Me The Horizon played a really solid and entertaining set, mixed and matched songs from their catalog well, and offered current fans plenty to be excited about, and new fans got a solid taste of what the band is all about. Honestly, a surprisingly good band to set the stage for Fall Out Boy - energy, personality, and stage presence enough to keep everyone invested and ready for more.
“This was my first concert ever at Riverbend. We had lawn seats so naturally I worried about the weather. Lo and behold, it started pouring right after we got our tickets scanned. We had cheap ponchos that helped. It stopped raining way before Fall Out Boy came on. In the end, they put on an amazing show! The sets were gorgeous and they included numerous pyrotechnics! I’m so glad I got to see a band that I’ve been listening to since middle school. I remember numerous awkward middle school dances jamming out to Fall Out Boy songs. What a treat it was to see them perform live.” - Anique Thomas, 31
Fall Out Boy’s set started with a mystery. The stage was bare aside from microphones and some risers. The curtain was drawn in the back. I thought, perhaps, the setup would be small, modest, focusing on the music more than the spectacle. I stayed away from as much as I could about the tour, so didn’t know what to expect. In the words of Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb & Dumber, “I was way off.”
The curtain parts. Drummer Andy Hurley is seated behind his kit, on a rolling riser. The other members of the band - who, even as someone who’s not necessarily a “fan” I knew the names of - guitarist/vocalist Patrick Stump, guitarist Joe Trohman, and bassist Pete Wentz all walked out with him. So, mystery solved. Then the fireworks started, and readers, when I tell you that I was not prepared for just how loud and bright and hot they were. I don’t know how those faithful fans in the pit fared. It was a lot.
Hot hot heat aside, it was interesting to see the spectacle of what turned out to be a shockingly elaborate and weird stage design surrounding a setlist of more than 20 songs - a doomsday-ish clock and demonic moon, a circular screen with thematically appropriate and super random (to me, anyway) imagery, a bell that would toll, the clock would turn, the stage background would change. What were massive cannon shot fireworks would turn to flame thrown pyrotechnics would give way to an underwater seascape would transform into the head of a giant dog would transition to a massive owl/tree hybrid, with a lowered lighting rig meant to emulate the feel of a small club while the band moved through a mini-set of older tracks happening somewhere in the middle of all that. Oh and that also shot fire because sure, why not. What was happening on stage, with the band itself, though, was just as fascinating.
Fall Out Boy is, somehow, one of the biggest bands in the world. Still. A modest start, then savvy marketing, combined with emotive and easy-to-listen to musicality, clever lyrics, tongue-tying song titles, and The Emo Craze of the mid-to-late oughts, brought this band to a level I’m not entirely certain they expected or were prepared for. They’ve had their ups and downs, have been - overall - critically successful, with a few stumbles here and there. The fans have stayed with them for over 20 years now. The setlist felt like it meant to celebrate that, to thank fans for hanging in there with them, for letting them take creative detours and waiting patiently as they sorted it all out. Over the course of almost 2 hours, they moved around their catalog with ease, jumping back and forth from the anthemic radio hits they’re best known for, to deeper cuts true fans know and love.
At one point, at the end of a piano ballad section highlighting Stump’s musical chops, bassist Pete Wentz did a magic trick on top of said piano. He disappeared from the stage only to reappear near the soundbooth - a trick I’m not at all sure how they pulled off. Did it add anything to the show? Not necessarily. Was it entertaining? Absolutely.
Some other highlights:
- I sat next to Chanell Karr (aka DJ Coco), who is the Promotions Manager over at CityBeat. We had a few nice conversations throughout, talking about fandom and emo and what we’re working on this summer. Super nice to meet you!
- Fall Out Boy recently released a cover and updated version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” I fully anticipated hearing that one live so was surprised when it started playing over the loudspeakers. I said, “They couldn’t possibly be coming out on stage to their own song, right?” Readers, they most certainly did.
- The Magic 8 Ball was a fun touch, and one that fans seemed to appreciate quite a bit. They got an oldie but a goodie. “Favorite Record” as a result.
- Kudos to the dude operating the absolutely massive Dog Head Puppet. It sang along. It attacked. It took up a quarter of the stage. One of the wilder things I’ve seen at a show. Also, the glowing blue eyes were a nice touch.
- Fall Out Boy did not play their remixed version of the Ghostbusters theme song from the 2016 Paul Feig directed film. Nor did they play the theme song from Spidey & His Amazing Friends. I told my 9 year old about this glaring oversight, to which he responded, “That’s really messed up. 1 star out of 5.” He’s a much harsher critic than his dad, I’ll give him that.
All in all, fans of Fall Out Boy left Riverbend sated and exuberant. Singing along to so many of your favorite songs will do that, I suppose. Cheers - and respect - to the band for matching stage presence and set list to stage design and spectacle. I don’t know that the flamethrowing bass guitar was entirely necessary, but it was, admittedly, badass. Not something I anticipated seeing, or saying, when it comes to Fall Out Boy.
I hope the fans enjoyed ALL of it. I certainly did.