Pamela Littky

The Fall Out Boy Fan Experience

So Much For (Tour) Dust felt like the culmination of everything Fall Out Boy had been working toward up until this point. It was 20 years in the making to deliver such an astounding and all encompassing experience.

Regardless of what era you entered the fandom in, if you saw them in the basement of Chicago during Take This To Your Grave, or went to the Wrigley Field M A N I A release show, there was something for you at this concert, on this tour. I feel considerably lucky I was able to experience all that I saw earlier this month. 

One thing I would like to make abundantly clear is that this was by no means a nostalgia fest. Fall Out Boy’s new record, So Much (For) Stardust, is by far their best release in years and the new tracks blended perfectly into the setlist. It doesn’t feel like a band trying to recapture youth; it feels like a celebration of it. Fall Out Boy tries to explore new territories – sonically with their music and visually with their shows – during every record cycle.

“Love From The Other Side” as an opener felt just as at home as “Sugar, We’re Going Down” did. “Hold Me Like a Grudge” felt just as well put in their setlist as “This Ain’t a Scene” did. The new record enhanced the concert immensely. If So Much (For) Stardust was not as spectacular as it is, it definitely would have detracted from the show. A prime example of this is when I saw Metallica that same weekend. Love or hate the new record, it doesn’t matter to us, but whenever the band would play tracks from that new release, 72 Seasons, you would hear fans around you say, “Are you joking?” or “Oh, God. Not another one!” During Fall Out Boy, when they played “Heaven Iowa,” a new song, not a single person was even seated. Everyone was jumping up and down while screaming the lyrics. This concert furthered the belief that So Much (For) Stardust might be Fall Out Boy’s best post-hiatus record. 

Another aspect to mention is the outstanding stage production. Fall Out Boy has been known for making their tours feel like a journey, but this was another level. They were able to bring the album cover to life with a giant puppet head of a dog who was singing along with the songs. They created an underwater spectacle with massive set pieces like a moving starfish and a giant clam. At one point throughout the experience the band played inside of a mythical forest – all practical effects. During the band’s older songs, they brought the lights down directly above their heads and performed in what we would imagine one of those aforementioned Chicago basements would feel – cramped but on display for what feels like the whole world in front of you. Also, you’ve come to expect it, but, yes, there was fire. Lots and lots of fire. The fireworks and pyrotechnics always match to the beat of the song, and Pete Wentz’s bass even became a flamethrower. It was stellar, it was perfect, and there isn’t much more than can be said.

Something to add about Fall Out Boy’s older tracks being played, it was surprising how well they translated to the larger, outdoor, stadium presence. When listening to songs off of Take This To Your Grace or From Under The Cork Tree, most picture a small venue packed to the brim with people crowd surfing, moshing, and running in circle pits for that kind of close-knit punk vibe. Before the tour, I always imagined that seeing tracks like “Dead On Arrival” or “Calm Before The Storm” would almost feel weird in an arena of 20,000 people with seats. I was so wrong. The pure, unfiltered rock of those early songs filled the entire room all the way back to the lawn. It was electrifying. I never knew punk rock could sound so full and all encompassing. Seeing tracks like “Grand Theft Autumn” brought to life and watching an area full of people scream it back in time was astounding. It was a defining moment that proved punk rock is not – and will never be – dead. 

The band also plays a medley of covers. On some tour dates they played Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” on others (Like Queens, New York) they played Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” At PNC Bank Arts Center on August 5, they played “Don’t Stop Believing,” the Journey hit. While the band sounded incredible, and arguably better than Journey themselves these days, this was the only gripe or low point worth noting on the show. The band was pulling out such incredible deep cuts that having them play a cover so well-known felt like a screeching halt of momentum. Fall Out Boy is one of the best bands of this generation, so with that in mind, we would much rather see any one of their originals than another popular song. That’s not an insult to the band but rather a testament to the legacy they’ve built for themselves, by themselves. 

Of course, a huge part of this review and the excitement of every show is the Magic 8 Ball portion of their set. For those unaware, every night of tour the band would ask a giant Magic 8 Ball which song to play and they would proceed to rip the entire arena to pieces with deep cuts, tracks never played live, or B-sides one would not expect. This is part of what made this tour so exciting. I found myself checking every night after the tour to see which crazy track was played. It made the fan base pay attention to the entire tour, not just the date they were attending. It also created a level of pure excitement and anticipation. Many fans found themselves listening to every single Fall Out Boy record ahead of time, pondering which track their night would hold… and even then it was completely unexpected. This is a new tradition that I feel Fall Out Boy should still do in some form or another on tours going forward. Changing the setlist completely each night makes your date of the show feel special. It’s something no other show will have experienced, and you yourself will most likely never forget the feeling of elation when you heard the opening notes to that song you never saw coming.

We even had the chance to chat with some attendees and their thoughts on the experience. Mary Ortel saw Fall Out Boy previously but told us that this was her favorite show to date! “I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “I’ve seen them before on the first leg of the M A N I A Tour in 2018… and this show felt like a rock show. They had Machine Gun Kelly opening the tour that I saw them and it just felt a little bit out of place for me personally. Seeing Games We play, Royal and the Serpent, and Bring Me The Horizon before Fall Out Boy? The vibes were absolutely immaculate. I tried to stay away from setlist spoilers for the entire tour (which was a task in itself), but I really wanted to be surprised. The songs they picked I really could not have guessed. Hearing ‘What a Catch, Donnie’ live… that song changed my life. Getting to hear part of it live is an experience I will never forget.”

Even attendees like Katherine Patton who saw Fall Out Boy for the very first time during this tour, the incredible experiences didn’t stop. She told us,”For my first time seeing Fall Out Boy, having been a fan of them for well over a decade, I thought it was such a great show to see. As a longtime fan, it was amazing. I am a die-hard Take This To Your Grave fan, so when they pulled out ‘Grand Theft Autumn,’ ‘Dead on Arrival,’ and ‘Calm Before The Storm,’ which, for me, is very much a lesser known track…. A band like Fall Out Boy who has got so much music – their music spans decades now – it was nice to see they’re not just going to tour the new album, not just going to tour the post-hiatus stuff. They toured Fall Out Boy as a band. This tour was encompassing all of their albums which I absolutely loved.”

Another concert fanatic who had never seen Fall Out Boy live was Nick Pollis. He mainly went for opener Bring Me The Horizon, but was pleasantly surprised by Fall out Boy’s set. He shared with us this: “I love how Fall Out Boy played a handful of deep and obscure cuts instead of sticking to hits and new stuff. It was also cool how Oli [Sykes] came all the way out to the lawn during their set. Nobody really comes all the way there anymore.”

One of our designers at The Aquarian, Rachael Cenicola, said, “I definitely liked this time more than the last time I saw them. I hadn’t seen them since I was 15 and it was such a great experience to see them again. I loved the dog and the bubbles that the crab was pulling around. That was super cool! I also loved ‘Save Rock and Roll,’ because that is one of my favorite Fall Out Boy songs.” Another member of our extended team who was able to catch the tour, Amanda Lavery, stated, “I went to three shows this tour and they were absolutely some of the best Fall Out Boy shows I’ve been to in years. The constant changes in the setlist, the stage design variation throughout the show, the energy of the crowd, and the fact that the fans didn’t fully know what to expect each night made it just as captivating to see each night I went. They found the perfect balance between touring for their new album and mixing in the older songs we’ve wanted to hear that they haven’t played in years (or ever), so I genuinely felt like it was everything I wanted out of this tour.”

Overall, not only from this writer’s point of view, but from many fans, as well, this Fall Out Boy tour was the pinnacle of their career thus far. Fans left the So Much for (Tour) Dust feeling like it was the definitive experience for a fan of the band. Fall Out Boy delivered on all fronts and created a masterpiece of a concert.