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Fall Out Boy - Cardiff International Arena
By Steve Grenfell
My teenage kids have been great with me about music. They've bought into nearly everything that I've introduced to them over the years - even to the point of accompanying me to Stiff Little Fingers gigs more than happily. So, the least I can do is give a chance to the bands that they've found for themselves, and an ideal opportunity came with the Fall Out Boy gig close to home a couple of days before my lad's birthday.
As positive as I was determined to be, I wasn't expecting much, though. My impression of them from their albums was that they're cutesy and over-produced. That'd be reinforced by their videos which are all attempts at comedy, and also by some song titles. What do you make of 'Thnks fr th Mmrs' (nope, not a typing error) or 'Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends'? Looked to me like someone's been trying too hard.
Given my respect for SLF, there was also a discouraging assessment from Jake Burns on 'SLF.com'. Since both Fall Out Boy and the inestimable Mr Burns now reside in Chicago, someone asked his opinion. To the point as ever, and using his years of lyric writing experience to capture a range of thoughts, emotions and concepts in a well-turned phrase, he announced that they were "annoying twats". Looking at the 'face' of the band, Pete Wentz (with his 'guy-liner', his celebrity wife Ashlee Simpson and his choice of name for his son, Bronx Mowgli Wentz - "The Jungle Book was something that me and Ashlee bonded over") it was difficult to disagree.
On the plus side, though, as we were driving to Cardiff, my daughter also pointed out that NME had voted them 4th worst band of the year. Ah, a glimmer of hope.
So how was it? The sell-out crowd was well warmed up by support groups - 'Hey Monday' (an American group of 'Paramore' wannabees) and local South Wales lads 'Kids in Glass Houses'. Pretty good in their own right, but I've got to say that the main event was much better, and much, much better than expected. Whoever produces FOB's recorded material has achieved that alchemical miracle of turning them into multi-million sellers by squeezing all the edge out of their work. Listen to their albums and they've got a layered, almost orchestral sound which is difficult to take seriously. But live, they just play it straight and they show that there's been a proper rocking band lurking underneath all that production.
From a really strong start with 'Thnks fr the Mmrs' through to 'Dance Dance', the crowd was with them all the way. Not the greatest musicians maybe, but Joe Trohman is a far better guitarist than you'd ever guess from the albums, and Patrick Stump has a distinctive voice which has held up well, despite being towards the end of a world tour.
Moral of the tale? Don't take any notice of music journalists and don't judge a band until you've seen them play live. But you didn't need me to tell you that.
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