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Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013

Fall Out Boy @ The Rave

Dec. 18, 2013

fall out boy at the rave milwaukee 2013 tour
Photo credit: Kiri Lin
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The most fascinating question about the Fall Out Boy reunion wasn’t why the band finally made amends—another album seemed inevitable after singer Patrick Stump dubbed the break an indefinite hiatus—but rather why in the hell they titled the comeback record Save Rock And Roll. Such a provocative declaration instantly raised so many other wrathful questions: Does rock ’n’ roll really need saving? And, even if so, would the saviors be the angsty, emo-propagators Fall Out Boy? The statement certainly seemed like a put-on, especially since the flippant dudes in Fall Out Boy don’t shy away from that sort of cheekiness. But were they serious or just messing with us?

Before the breakup Fall Out Boy had also been blurring the lines between pop-punk and straight-up pop music and were more geared toward Top 40 radio than any alternative or underground rock stations. The new material, save for an EP recorded with Ryan Adams that harkens back to the outfit’s punk and hardcore roots, basically stays in that same intersection, equal parts propulsive and euphoric, littered with catchy hooks and easy-to-sing-along choruses. Save Rock and Roll should be considered a rock record—but in the same way Taylor Swift should be considered a country singer—mostly as a distinction to separate itself from other pop acts.

Returning for its self-proclaimed ninth appearance at the Rave, Fall Out Boy performed a surprisingly understated set. Unlike many pop shows, there were no flashy stage theatrics. The set design remained noticeably bare, as the band didn’t even provide its own backdrop. Instead, the logo from local KISS-FM affiliate adorned the background. Aside from that station being pop-music oriented, the night definitely resembled a no-thrills rock performance. Was this Fall Out Boy any different than the ones from the past? Were they really out to save rock music?

The immediate answers are no and probably not. These are largely the same dudes that broke up four years ago, minus some ostentatious visuals. Bassist Pete Wentz still takes the reigns on the crowd interaction, while Stump takes a backseat. Wentz would go on to thank KISS-FM for helping them stop in Milwaukee more than once. It’s hard to look on stage and not see the ambitious suburban Chicago pop-punk kids that were willing to shake every hand for an opportunity at fame. This is a group that even wore its own T-shirts on stage without even a hint of irony.

But does Fall Out Boy believe they’re out to save rock music? This becomes considerably much harder to answer. It’s possible that such delusion could exist amongst their ranks or conversely that it’s all tongue-in-cheek, headline-grabbing hyperbole. Regardless, Fall Out Boy still can put on a gratifying show and deserve some recognition for being one of the last major rock bands infiltrating the pop culture mainstream. But even if rock needed saving, these aren’t the redeemers. Fall Out Boy might even agree. Or maybe not.