I Was The Oldest Guy Who Went To See Fall Out Boy Last Night And All I Got Was This Stupid Article Published About It

Comic book superhero Radioactive Man's masked sidekick Fallout Boy made his first appearance during The Simpsons' first season, on May 9, 1991. Bart and two friends found a rare comic book for sale, and as they flipped through the pages they discovered a red-suited Flash/Superman hybrid with a Robin-esque sidekick whose primary role was to warn the hero to "Watch out!"

Four years later, in September 1995, Bart and his best friend Milhouse aspired to play the boy wonder in a live-action version of the comic being shot in Springfield. "If I get this role I can finally come to terms with this funny little muddle called Bart," he said, an emo kid years before Jimmy Eat World or Dashboard Confessional. Though Bart wowed the casting agents, they cruelly explained that he was an inch too short, and the part went to Milhouse. That was almost 18 years ago. Pete Wentz was 16 years old.

Since 2005's breakout double-platinum From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy has made something of a career of underdoggery—they've long been the heroes in a soap opera, comic book, or teen drama of their own imagining. This is a band whose fan club is called the Overcast Kids, who named their greatest hits record Believers Never Die, and has a song titled "Our Lawyers Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued." It comes as no surprise that their name—allegedly yelled to them by a fan at an early gig when they were soliciting names—is a quirky boy sidekick rather than the star of the show.

Also unsurprisingly, a great deal of the audience in attendance at the band's sold-out show at Terminal 5 in Manhattan last week was-most simply put-not alive when either of The Simpsons episodes aired. For that matter, few among the packed-in crowd were probably old enough to remember the band's debut album Take This to Your Grave, a staple of the pop punk catalogue if there ever was one, just over ten years ago.

It makes sense, though, that their following has remained so young even as the band has aged because their inability to present irony appeals most to teens who are, themselves, painfully incapable of anything representing perspective. Every crush is life-or-death, best friends are BFFs AEAE, and music is taken at its most hyper-literal. FOB-and the genre as a whole-haven't aged in the decade or so since their heydays because they continue to appeal most to a consumer group perfectly suited to love everything about them.

To some extent, Fall Out Boy does represent a sort of power-pop-punk generational gap: Old-school Fall Out Boy followers are a few years too young to be grown-up Green Day fans and a few years too old to have succumbed to Bieber fever. Fall Out Boy songs often contain messages cloaked in irony, but the next-level meanings are lost on a listening public set on taking them seriously. As long as there are teens for the band to sing to, their loaded gun complex remains fully cocked, tightly pulled, and held in the hands of kids with nervous fingers on the triggers.

Singles "Dance Dance" and "Sugar We're Going Down" drove From Under the Cork Tree, Wentz began publicly dating Ashley Simpson, and the band went mainstream. The following record, Infinity on High, debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts in 2007. It contains some of the band's best pop songs-by this point, they'd transitioned pretty far from four-chord rock, instead dropping dance-poppier rhythms and even more of Wentz's one-liner wordplay. A spoken introduction from Jay-Z on the first track heralded their arrival.

At Terminal 5, from the opening notes of that track, "Thriller," (this time sans Jay-Z, sadly), the band delivered an all-in-all surprisingly striking set that drew from its entire catalogue. A slimmed-down Patrick Stump remains the band's very-capable frontman; his remarkably clear falsetto cut through the screaming-along crowd. Once perhaps the Milhouse to Wentz's bad-boy Bart in their Glimmer Twins partnership (Stump writes much of the music while Wentz is the pint-sized lyricist), Stump seems much more comfortable in his skin since his stirring blog "We Liked You Better Fat" early last year.

In his post, Stump expressed disappointment over how his solo record Soul Punk was received (it's actually an obvious predecessor to Save Rock and Roll that does have some redeeming moments) and fans' open frustration with Folie songs. "I'm a 27-year-old has-been," he wrote. "I'm a touring artist and I feel I've become incapable of touring anymore with any act…whether I were to go out as a solo artist or do some Fall Out Boy "Reunion" [nope: Still never broke up] or start a new band…there will still be 10-20 percent of the audience there to tell me how shitty whatever it is I'm doing is and how much better the thing I used to do was." "Show-business," a dejected Bart Simpson complained to his sister after being passed over in his audition, "is a hideous bitch-goddess."

But it seems like they've gone away for long enough that the Overcast Kids are just happy to have them—there was scarcely a boo for any of the 21 songs spread over ninety minutes in Manhattan. Though the earlier songs and radio singles received the loudest applause, no songs seemed to be met with the open contempt Stump experienced the last time around.

Even tracks from the uneven Folie à Deux-a Let it Be of sorts for the band which prompted their acrimonious 2009 hiatus-sounded better coming from the booming T5 stacks, particularly the even-dancier foot-stomper "I Don't Care" and "What a Catch, Donnie," a welcome breather on a crowded floor soaked in sweat and drops of water from bottles flung through the air by security to keep the masses cool.

And though April's Save Rock and Roll is probably the weakest of the band's five full-lengths, the songs translated well to a live setting, where the sing-along shouts of "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)" and "Young Volcanoes" had an edge that the studio versions sorely miss. Thankfully, the album's mostly tragic guests Big Sean and Courtney Love were also missing from the evening's festivities.

The place to be was the floor—I'm not a big guy, but for once I felt unconcerned with the mosh pits and crowd surfers around me. Although I wasn't old enough to be their dad, I could certainly be their substitute teacher, which afforded me a level of respect and more than a few requests to boost up potential crowd surfers.

It's clear the band will continue to get away with its melodramatic Save Rock and Roll mission statement because its crowd is welcomingly naïve enough to think that the band was charging them to live it. The first album's old bangers like "Tell Mick He Made My List of Things to Do Today" and "Homesick at Space Camp" were some of the rock-ier songs of the night, and they got some of the biggest reactions, judging by the number of teenage crowd surfers who landed on my head. But the band's music—old rock or new pop—hit my old bones (and ears) full in the face. "Watch out!" indeed.

One reason I think I continue to go to these shows is that now I get to enjoy the lyrics and full-bodied fun without the teenage angst that I was feeling when I fell in love with this band in the first place. I was never an Overcast Kid, but I certainly wasn't equipped to understand the mixed metaphors that helped make them stick out. Perhaps what they really want to save now is the unbridled rockist creation space—an incubator for unbridled emotion sans the ever-pervasive threat of irony other than their own. But with this crowd, rock never went away anyway. By tapping into the fountain of youth, they've found their long-sought "cure to growing older."

During the arena-rock chorus of the new album's title track—the band returns to the New York on September 7 for a show at Barclays Center—projections of music icons lit up the back wall behind them. Some (Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix) made sense; others (Biggie Smalls, Johnny Cash) not so much. I was left wondering how many of the braces-bearing horde could even identify these figures, but either way, there remains something kind of cute about a band that has ostensibly returned to save a music that even they haven't made in years.


John Vilanova

Follow us on Twitter | Facebook | Subscribe by e-mail