Monday, 12 October 2015

Fall Out Boy - Wembley Arena, 11/10/15

My favourite thing about concerts is encountering surprise hidden gems in the support acts. which was certainly something that happened last night. I hadn't listened to either Charley Marley or Matt and Kim, and I wasn't too sure what to expect, but their short opening sets were the definition of fun.

First up was Charley, a recent signing to Pete Wentz's DCD2 record label. Only playing a small fifteen minute set, Charley managed to squeeze in four songs, including an appearance from Pete himself. The crowd were participating politely at the start of his set, (if anyone can tell me what the first song he played was, that would be much appreciated: I picked up the lyric "I'm the last known fighter, fighting for you") but by the end a large majority of the crowd were jumping about and joining in - probably one of the best responses for an unknown opener that I've ever seen, especially one that was only added to the tour mere days before it kicked off. 
I do wonder if Pete's guest appearance could have been the turning point - when you back a recent signing strongly enough to perform with him, it shows how serious you are about supporting his career. The crowd got themselves into a bit of a frenzy with his appearance, and it didn't subside after he'd disappeared. 
Closer 'Bad Things With Jamaicans' was Charley's debut single, which he has recently released a video for, and it seems like a song that could really put him on the radar. Having guys run out from back stage to throw shirts to the crowd definitely didn't hurt matters! His sound is so unique that there isn't really anything to compare it to - there are aspects that I could compare to multiple bands (the funky beat with the rap over the top reminiscent of a poppier twenty one pilots, if they had the fashion style of Don Broco) but there's no one out there that I can solidly say that he sounds like. I'll just recommend you check him out and decide for yourself. 

Wonka Bar (ft. Pete Wentz)
Bad Things With Jamaicans

Second act Matt and Kim also had a fairly short set, but their energy did not let up throughout the entire half an hour. Just in 'Block After Block', drummer Kim Schifino had already stood up on her drums to get the crowd clapping along, and vocalist/keyboardist Matt Johnson had no qualms about commanding the crowd to jump. With the crazy keyboard work and the effervescent energy the crowd didn't argue, with the majority of the floor throwing themselves into each and every song. 
I must admit, I had not heard of Matt and Kim before they were announced as Fall Out Boy's support, so I was surprised to discover that they'd been a band for eleven years. Their experience does show on stage though, because they know how to get a crowd involved and make it look completely effortless. I must respect any band who can have a vocalist who plays keyboards while standing on one foot practically horizontally, and any drummer who can casually stand on her drums to get the crowd involved, then jump back down and flawlessly re-enter the song without missing a beat. I'm not a musician (any longer, but there was a time I could play a mean flute) but I know how hard it must be to exude that amount of confidence and control when you can be pretty certain no one in the crowd bought tickets just to see you - I mean, the show sold out months and months before the support acts were added to the bill. 
Alternating between miming dry humping while a musical interlude was playing, to throwing balloons out for the crowd to blow them up themselves, and twerking on a drum kit... It was the most varied set I think I've ever seen. No, it was the most varied set I've ever seen, and I'm still a bit confused by all that went on. But, as Matt himself put it "we love to play, so we show it. I know you're like 'Who are those assholes smiling up there?' But we love this, we love getting to do this for you", and they certainly know how to put on a show. 
I'm not saying Matt and Kim are the best live band. Their energy is commendable, and their inability to be phased is also impressive. Alas, Matt's voice is quite flat and nasally, so I did find it quite annoying at times. I think I'd be unable to listen to their recordings, and they aren't a band that I would find myself choosing in my spare time - it's a shame, but it's just the way things go sometimes. However, if they tour in the UK again and I have the chance to see another set, there's no way I'm missing it: this short, six song set rates in my top ten most fun sets of all time. 

Block After Block
Hey Now
Get It 
It's Alright

The support act who had the biggest challenge to win the crowd over was definitely Professor Green (aka Stephen Manderson). When he was announced as support the backlash on Twitter was vicious, so much so that he even sold a shirt with a tweet on it at the show. As he walked out on stage, I was quite shocked at the volume of cheers that went up - I don't know if it was just because it meant more live music, but everyone seemed to be screaming and surging forward.
The reaction stopped as soon as it started though. Through the first two songs, 'Upper Clapton Dance' and 'I Need You Tonight' (Professor Green's take on the INXS classic) there were only a couple of people waving their hands, and it really did look like the set was going to be a flop. 'Just Be Good To Green' is one of his most popular songs, so that got quite a lot more people involved, but it wasn't until half way through 'Remedy' that he really seemed to grab the crowd. I'm not quite sure what happened - there wasn't a real turning point - because one moment hardly anyone was moving, and the next thing the crowd didn't seem to want to stop. It carried on through the rest of the set, culminating in 'Read All About It', when nearly half of the arena had their phone lights out to set the mood for the song.
I've never seen such a varied reaction as I did at this set. I mean, sometimes it takes a couple of songs for a crowd to really get into a support act, but I haven't seen the crowd go hot and cold so frequently in such a short space of time. Overall, he definitely received more support than I'd been expecting - the room filled in a lot more than it had during the first two acts. When he went down into the crowd during 'Monster', you could also see a lot of people reaching for him, and he looked extremely happy getting back up on stage, saying "thanks for supporting me during 'Monster', we had a little bit of a moment there".
I hadn't been expecting much from Professor Green: I really like rap, but he's not one of the artists I really appreciated. I liked 'Just Be Good To Green', but I hadn't listened to any of his other songs before coming, and I thought it was going to be an interesting set but not an amazing one.
However, I wasn't betting on his live band being so damn amazing. By 'band', I mean the co-vocalists Katie Holmes-Smith and Dream Mclean, and his DJ. Dream is a brilliant rapper, and some of the back and forth that went on between him and Professor Green perfectly exhibited the chemistry and ease between the two of them. Katie's vocal was the more stunning of the two - she has one of those brilliant tones that should make her a successful solo vocalist in her own right (a la Ella Eyre and Jess Glynne, both vocalists who extensively toured with other bands (Rudimental and Clean Bandit respectively) before launching their solo careers) and she blew me away. I dislike Emili Sandé's vocal on 'Read All About It', but Katie's voice made me really appreciate the song, which was something I didn't think could happen. I enjoyed Professor Green, but I do wonder whether I would have liked his set as much if he hadn't brought Katie along with him.
I think this is one of those very rare sets when the artist completely manages to change my opinion. I didn't dislike Professor Green, I was just very nonchalant. However, with the energy that he was exuding and the meaningful lyrics that poured out of every song... I think I'm going to give him a better chance in the future. Thank you, Fall Out Boy, for having such a unique choice for support - it's always great to branch out of your comfort zone and experience different genres in a live environment.

Upper Clapton Dance
I Need You Tonight
Just Be Good To Green
Are You Getting Enough?
Read All About It

This was the third time I've seen Fall Out Boy, so I knew what to expect from their set. The sets that they perform are always so much fun because they have so many songs with great sing alongs, and I've never been disappointed by one of their live shows. However, because I really didn't like 'American Beauty/American Psycho' as an album, I was quite apprehensive about hearing any of their newer material.
To start the set, the band had the video screen that had been above the stage all night lowered down to cover their entrance, so the anticipation built very quickly. Fall Out Boy are well known for putting on a great performance, and the videos that play at the beginning of their set and at intervals throughout are atmospheric and thought-provoking. By choosing to go down a multi-media route, it really does get the crowd more invested in what's going on on the stage, because there's no way that you can't be paying attention to their entrance. Playing 'Sugar, We're Going Down' first was a little bit of a surprise, but that's the brilliant thing about going to a tour when a new album has just been released - it's interesting to see which songs get moved where in the setlist.
This set really was a blockbuster. With tracks from all of their albums and a massive twenty three songs played, it was surprising that Fall Out Boy could keep up the energy in their performance during such a long set and on every night of an extensive tour - this was the penultimate date of the UK leg. They weren't running around all over the place, or jumping up and over things, but because Andy Hurley's drum kit was placed at the top of a set of stairs the band members were running up to perform in front of him quite regularly, and Pete Wentz was continually doing his crazy circular spins while playing.
Where I had been nervous about the new material, I shouldn't have been worried. The band played seven songs from their newest album, including my personal favourite ('Jet Pack Blues') and the five songs that have been released as singles ('Centuries', 'Immortals', 'American Beauty/American Psycho', 'Irresistible' and 'Uma Thurman' respectively). The only song that didn't really seem to fit into the set was 'The Kids Aren't Alright', which is quite slow for a Fall Out Boy song - and not in a pretty way, more in the way of an elephant plodding along. With the lighters out and the crowd all swaying, it did find itself seeming more like a lullaby than a rock band's ballad, and I'm still not too sure on that one. Surprisingly, the song I hated most on the album - 'American Beauty/American Psycho' - sounded quite good in a live environment: on the CD it feels overproduced and over the top, but in the live environment it worked much better and I found myself really enjoying it.
In fact, after seeing this show I think I finally get it. A lot of people have been raving about the newest album, saying that it's revolutionary and it's ushering in a new era for Fall Out Boy, and I've always disagreed - but now, I get it. A couple of the older songs seemed a bit dull after hearing the newer material, because where it's so infectiously catchy you can't help but want to dance to it, and it overshadows a couple of their earlier songs that used to do just that. I liked 'Uma Thurman' and 'Irresistible' when they were released, but I didn't love either of them - it just seems like they're songs that really click in a live performance, because dance tracks always sound so much better when you can feel them. I've also always been a bit unsure on the kick in to 'Uma Thurman', which seems a bit harsh on the recordings - it dives straight in quite loudly, and I really enjoy songs that build up - but when Pete introduced it by saying "some day the storm will clear for everyone and you'll realise you can move mountains", I was too excited for the song to really even notice what had previously irritated me.
The new song that sounded the best of all was, by far, 'Immortals', because they decided to perform it acoustic. Any Fall Out Boy song acoustic is going to sound beautiful, but whereas 'Immortals' had been a song that I'd sat on the fence over, the acoustic version definitely made me fall in love with it. Following it up with an acoustic of 'Young Volcanoes', I was also highly impressed - it's my favourite song from 'Save Rock and Roll', and it sounds much better with pared back accompaniment. It makes me wish that they could have done more songs acoustic, and I'm still holding out hope for an acoustic album at some point in the future, but this was enough to keep me wanting more.
Going back over to the main stage after their acoustic set, Andy Hurley performed one of the best drum solos of all time. Often, drum solos are just complete silence with the drummers doing as many tricks as they can in a minute or two, but the difference in this solo was that Andy was performing to a mash up of songs. Including the Game of Thrones theme song and 'Trap Queen' by Fetty Wap, it was impressive to hear Andy's drumming flowing seamlessly amongst the different genres, and it certainly cemented what a talented performer he is - drummers seem to get overlooked quite frequently, but Andy really shone.
I cannot fault any of their set, because Fall Out Boy are a band that don't make mistakes - they don't pick songs that will flop, and they squeeze in as much as they physically can because they care about making their fans happy and performing as much as possible. Pete stopped the set for a break just before 'Centuries', as there was a fan in the crowd who was nearly passing out; as the crowd passed the water back to her, Pete told them "if you're feeling too hot and out of it, you can talk to [security]. We care about each and every one of you". It makes for such a safe environment when the band is so concerned about the well-being of their fans, and it's a beautiful thing to see - especially in a show of this magnitude.
The most inspiring moment for me was definitely at the end of the set, just after Pete had assisted the unwell fan. He shared a story from the Cherokee Indians - the story of the two wolves - and announced "life is far too short to feed the wrong wolf". I've heard the story in the past and I've found it very empowering, because it's all about making the right decisions for you and making the right choices for you to live your life to the fullest, and hearing it again just reinforces the impact of it for me. If you haven't heard of the story before, I sincerely recommend you read it through the link that I've posted above.
This was the best Fall Out Boy set I've ever seen, and Pete himself said it was "probably the most fun London show we've ever played" (also shouting out to "the UK in general for getting on the Halloween train, it's fucking awesome" - Pete really does love it over here!) so I feel honoured to have been in attendance for something as magnificent as this. If you haven't been to a Fall Out Boy show yet, you're seriously missing out - I'd suggest catching one as soon as you are able.

Sugar, We're Going Down
The Phoenix
A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More "Touch Me"
I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me
Alone Together
The Kids Aren't Alright
This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race
Immortals (acoustic on second stage)
Young Volcanoes (acoustic on second stage, followed by Andy's drum solo back on main stage)
Dance, Dance
American Beauty/American Psycho
Jet Pack Blues
Beat It
Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy
Uma Thurman
Thnks fr th mmrs
I Don't Care
My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)

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