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Fall Out Boy holds court in a burst of pyro, puns and hooks

June 25, 2007|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Pete Wentz is a master of crowd control. At the Forum on Saturday night, the lyricist-bassist-ringmaster of Fall Out Boy had special instructions for fans: Hold up your cellphones for this song. Begin moshing here. Everyone take two steps back now. Dance to this one.

This is the power of a young band in the upper reaches of the Top 100. And fans were primed for action at the Forum. They even sang along to a Panic! At the Disco video shown between acts.

Not about to disappoint them, the members of Fall Out Boy made their entrance with typical abandon, popping out of the stage floor in matching shades of black, Wentz spinning on his heels, the inevitable focal point that night and every night.

What followed were 75 minutes of pyro fireballs, sweet emo hooks and snotty puns drawn partly from the band's newest album, "Infinity on High," a notable step forward in Fall Out Boy's scope and song craft. The single "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" was a catchy, self-referential anthem, with an ironic, tortured twist in Wentz's lyrics: "This bandwagon's full / Please catch another."

Not every song was quite so memorable, but there was a bit of hip-hop flow in "The Carpal Tunnel of Love," and singer-guitarist Patrick Stump could often be urgent and soulful, even singing a few moments of Akon's defiant lover-man hit, "Don't Matter."

Fall Out Boy's arena-rock dreams may have gotten a bit ahead of reality, since the 17,000-capacity Forum was barely more than half-full. A smaller room would also have meant less distance between the band and its audience. But the Chicago quartet did deliver some hummable, energetic pop tunes on a large scale, even if solid pacing and coherence seemed beyond them.

Late in the show, Wentz and guitarist Joseph Trohman performed while actually standing on the roof of a shiny new Honda -- demonstrating the sponsorship of this Honda Civic Tour a bit too literally. Sponsorships may keep ticket prices down (if not the $22 Forum parking fee) and may help pay for all those fireballs and special effects. But it can also mean the music is owned a little bit less by all those young fans hanging on Wentz's every bitter, funny, conflicted word.

The band +44, one of four other acts on the bill, has some experience with big crowds. It was built around former Blink- 182 singer-bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, whose new material was wildly uneven but still promising. "Baby Come On" and "When Your Heart Stops Beating" were charged, emotional and hopelessly catchy, like Blink at its best.

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