Live Review: Fall Out Boy - Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney (25.10.13)

Fall Out Boy were once a punk band and they are sure as hell not ready to let us forget that. This year's ferocious, Ryan Adams produced Pax Am Days served as a reminder to those that scoff and write them off as a pop act, that there is still some ferocity left over after all those years in the spotlight.

If that served as a timely reminder, their set was rife with contradictions that saw a band trying to keep in touch with their roots while embracing their status as an arena rock band. Their live set was littered with tributes to the scene and its creed, while a lot of the musical content and massive stage production had moved pretty far away from it.

These contradictions were bared clear early into the set for "Alone Together" a tender AM rock radio love song, that is perhaps the furthest thing from hardcore they have recorded. The imagery of old school mohawked punk couples projected onstage, felt miles away from the heartfelt acoustic ballad.

The set began with a spectacular entrance. A white curtain dropped away in a blaze of flashing lights to reveal a massive raised platform at the back of the stage and the band walking out on stage in all black Fall Out Boy branded outfits and matching balaclavas. Beginning "The Phoenix" from this year's comeback album, Save Rock and Roll. Perhaps not the most subtle of allusions to rebirth, subtlety wasn’t really on the cards tonight - drilled home by the image of Pete Wentz and Joe Trohman waving Fall Out Boy flags over the crowd well before the song's conclusion.

While their entrance was pure arena rock, this was quickly rectified by a dive into the back catalogue that produced a triple helping of Under The Cork Tree classics, climaxing with "This Aint A Scene, It’s An Arms Race". Wentz and Trohman began to make use of their wireless equipment racing back and forth across stage, Trohman leaping from the drum riser, while Wentz preened and posed for those in the front row and executed his signature spins that resemble a dog chasing its tail.

Wentz took the spotlight and channeled Tony Robbins to deliver a pair of self help sermons over the night that both boiled down to the same punk adage of staying true to oneself. With most of the crowd now past their teenage years, the message felt more like a given than sage life advice, but it was still cheered as if Wentz were a guru divulging the truths of the universe upon his tribe of lost followers.

If that felt a tad tacky it was nothing compared to the Mexican wave that was coaxed out of the crowd later on. This was rectified by immediately launching into "Sugar, We’re Going Down" which you may have forgotten, even features a breakdown. "Love, Sex, Death" injected a bit of thrash into proceedings, but was quickly balanced out by the band leaving the stage to pop up at the back of the venue to play acoustic cuts of "I’m Like a Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)" and "Grand Theft Autumn/ Where Is Your Boy". Patrick Stump's voice was impressive as usual, singing in registers that the audience tried valiantly to match but always fell far short of.

It was fitting that the encore provided the greatest disparity between what Fall Out Boy were and what they have become. Returning to finally make use of the platform at the back of the stage, Stump launched into the Elton John co-written piano ballad "Save Rock and Roll", with it’s shout along chorus and Aerosmith-ready hair metal guitar riff couldn’t be further from punk rock. The night was closed out, as always, with "Saturday", with Wentz taking the microphone into the crowd for his screaming conclusion.

For all the punk rock imagery, black clothes and EP’s reconnecting with their hardcore and thrash, there was no escaping Fall Out Boy are a pop band; there wasn’t a moment that summed it up more than when Wentz announced that they would be back for the X Factor.