LIVE: Fall Out Boy @ Islington Assembly Hall, London [14/01/15]

By Ben Tipple

I just witnessed Patrick Stump faux-rapping. Those are the thoughts commanding my mind as I leave through the understated Islington Assembly Hall foyer following tonight’s ridiculously intimate Fall Out Boy album launch show. No, Stump isn’t channelling his inner hip-hop persona – one which I assume he does unleash at parties – he is delivering the frustratingly enjoyable bridge from the new album’s title-track, ‘American Beauty / American Psycho’.

It appears in the latter half of their hit-laden set – one which includes obligatory appearances of heavy-hitters ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’, ‘Dance, Dance’, and ‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race’ in-amongst a smattering of new material (I never noticed quite how many Fall Out Boy songs have commas in their titles until this very moment). Largely, it’s a set that relies on the quality of the tracks and the delivery. If Fall Out Boy had any stops to pull out, pull them out they shall not. No smoke machines. No strobe lights. No dancing monkeys dressed in leotards.

Instead, frontman Stump owns the stage. Evolving over the years from the superficially introverted source of these distinctive vocals, Patrick Stump is now a king of the stage. From the moment he confidently walks towards the crowd under dimmed lights, they are with him all the way. He isn’t the band’s spokesperson – that honour is left to the ever-extroverted Pete Wentz – yet he is their leader. As he climbs onto the monitors, microphone stand in hand, this is his time.

The occasional missed drum beat in ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’, or the completely silent acoustic guitar for the first bars of ‘Young Volcanoes’ can easily be forgiven as their back-catalogue literally (and I mean literally) moves the floor. Seemingly resting on water, the venue feels every single motion initiated by the frantic moments in the likes of set opener ‘The Phoenix’ and the singular appearance from ‘Folie à Deux’, ‘I Don’t Care’. In the midst of this, the brand new material demonstrates its unmistakably clubbier vibe than that of old.

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It’s perhaps not surprising that material from ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ and ‘Take This To Your Grave’ sounds the least impressive live. Wentz even refrains from his odd spoken-word poetry inspired monologues as ‘Grand Theft Autumn’ and ‘Saturday’ loom – perhaps a sign of their nonchalant attitude towards the tracks, or conversely their willingness to let the tracks do the talking. There is a chance that stand-in guitarist Josh Newton (formerly of Every Time I Die fame) is more versed on newer material, with Joe Trohman unfortunately unable to play due to a recent family bereavement. Regardless, for tonight’s crowd, these are the moments worth writing home about. Voices camouflage Stump’s as they exuberantly enquire, just where is that boy tonight?

The change in musical style and delivery is never more evident than the switch from ‘American Beauty / American Psycho’ to ‘Grand Theft Autumn’. Fall Out Boy have never been ones to shy away from their pop influences, yet these are incredibly prominent on tracks from their new record. Air-grabs are encouraged by the melodramatic, yet equally mesmerising, ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’. The tracks’ ebb and flow is mirrored in the crowd.

There are those in their early twenties donning plaid shirts. There are groups of friends, couples, in their thirties… forties… watching intently from the back of tonight’s venue or involved in the midst of the crowd. A mosh pit full of sweaty teenagers dominates the centre of the room, and there’s even an impressive array of jet black emo fringes. Each has their own Fall Out Boy era to enjoy. Each has their own Fall Out Boy experience.

Fall Out Boy may have developed, even evolved, but tonight showcases their consistent core – their lively and infectious melodies have kept them going for well over a decade with little sign of slowing down. With each incarnation they have welcomed more into their throng, loosing little along the way. Yes, Patrick Stump may be faux-rapping, but right here – right now – the crowd are hanging on every word.

(Photo courtesy of Fall Out Boy)