Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fall Out Boy - Illinois Pop-Punkers Struggle with Their Identity - Phones4U Arena, Manchester, 17.03.14

Three songs into their performance at Manchester’s Phones4U Arena, Fall Out Boy are in the process of dispatching their biggest hit and arguable signature song This Ain’t a Scene (It’s an Arms Race) when they realise that no-one can actually hear it. Undeterred, frontman Patrick Stump shrugs and pulls out an acoustic guitar to perform rarity Chicago is So Two Years Ago unamplified, whilst bassist/bandleader Pete Wentz mugs cheekily for selfies with fans at the front of the crowd. It’s a pleasingly spontaneous moment in a show that often feels on-rails, lacking a maverick touch
Joe Trohman and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy
performing live in Manchester in 2014. (Credit to WENN.)
The Illinois fun-punk stalwarts’ comeback hasn’t gone unnoticed, or under the radar as such. Their return with Save Rock and Roll, crammed with glossy stadium-sized pop hooks, has been warmly received and their UK tour, a year on from release, feels more like a celebratory lap for the album and the hits. Opener The Phoenix, a ferocious jackhammer of a song, sets the tempo and the band barely let up for the next ninety minutes. It’s brash, melodramatic and for the most part, gloriously fun.

In spite of the pyrotechnics however, it feels quite arena-by-numbers at points. New track Death Valley is backed by hi-vis imagery of a desert basin, the excellent Alone Together is prefaced by a speech about “being individual” and the band even decamp to a b-stage for a “campfire moment with banjos” as they term it to perform early cut Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy. FOB are tight, well-honed and great on the melody. But even with the ecstatic response to hits like Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down, a sense of banality and a lack of identity prevails, despite how riotously, shamelessly enjoyable it is.

Indeed, their weakest link, disarmingly, is Stump. A sufferer of stage fright, his interactions are understandably tokenistic, and the trilby-sporting singer often leaves the patter to the hyperactive Wentz. But he also struggles vocally, straining on A Little Less “Sixteen Candles”, A Little More “Touch Me”, and getting lost under the instrumentation during a roaring Beat It. He delivers some great lines – his impression of guest artist Elton John on Save Rock and Roll’s title track is hilariously spot on – and he is serviceable enough behind the microphone, but more often than not, the inconsistency is jarring.
Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy performing live in
Manchester in 2014. (Credit to WENN.)
The rest shine periodically – drummer Andy Hurley introduces Dance, Dance with a frantic drum solo, and guitarist Joe Trohman shreds hard on a thrilling Thnks fr th Mmrs – but it is Wentz who drives them towards a rousing finale. When they dispatch the electronica-rock of comeback single My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light ‘Em Up), the singalong is both deafening and soaring in equal measure. By the time Wentz is fished out of the crowd following closer Saturday, it has gone past curfew. Few will complain. Fall Out Boy may have stepped into safer territory with their return; but there is still fun to be had in the ride alongside them to their new destination.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

An Introduction

Hello there! Good day to you, and welcome to this: The Northern Chords. And before we get started, let us clear the air on a few elements of this blog. The title for example. You may view the title of The Northern Chords and believe that it will be a blog dedicated to music in the north, although depending where you live will influence your opinion of where north actually is (for general reference, the north here reflects the north of England from where I was born, grew up, currently reside and blog from). In forming this opinion, you would be partially right, as this blog does indeed focus on music quite heavily, in particular live music. The Northern part however does not reflect a focus; it’s actually a play-on words of The Northern Lights, of which I have handily included a picture below, so as to avoid confusion.

See? They’re quite pretty, aren’t they? Anyway, back to the point; this blog does not focus on music made in the North of England. Rather, it focuses on a variety of things, principally reviews of my live music experiences. With the beginning of this blog, I have been to twenty-five concerts by my reckoning (various impromptu shows by artists in pubs and Battle of the Band competitions do not count, because I live by my own rather confusing rulebook) and, as an aspiring journalist, feel like I should probably share my verdict on each of them, as well reviews of future shows. Alongside music, I am a firm fan of the cinema, and so will endeavour to include reviews on this blog in covering recent releases that I see, along with historical reviews of other films. Likewise, reviews of other interests may appear; some television shows here, some books there, my opinions on some events, and a chance to promote the greatest game of all, rugby league, to the uninitiated. But predominantly, this will be a music and film review blog, coupled with what I hope is an interesting style of prose and reasoned logic behind my opinions. However, as logic has never been a strong suit, I do give caution here and now.

Thank you then! Especially if you got to the end of this introduction without closing the tab. I cannot comment on the frequency of posts but I certainly hope to have some form of regularity, so all that remains is to wish you all the best and see you soon at The Northern Chords!