Summers are made for big name band package tours, bills sold to audiences as pairings meant to fill outdoor venues by combining fan base forces. These tours are also usually made up of bands consisting of old rock dudes. (For examples, see the 2014 summer tour package circuit: Rod Stewart/Santana, Steve Miller/Journey, The Offspring/Bad Religion/Pennywise to name a few.)
Last night at Red Rocks, the big name package tour was not old, nor was it all dudes -- it was Paramore and Fall Out Boy, bands that brought equally fervent fans together for an incredible show. Though I don't think either band would have trouble filling the amphitheater on its own, it felt more like a gift to fans of both groups to get to see them live, together.
See also: Wisdom From Paramore's Hayley Williams
New Politics bravely opened the show, but the band was just not enough. It's placement made sense -- New Politics has that same retail-soundtrack vibe Paramore and Fall Out Boy found fame through initially. But even with all its commercially catchy choruses, songs like "Just Like Me" and "Harlem" were virtually indistinguishable.
The only defining moment came when guitarist Søren Hansen pulled out a ukulele -- but even that just made the band sound like a Target commercial. Lead singer David Boyd was at least bouncy and fun to watch on stage, throwing down his boy-band choreography mixed with breakdancing while talking to the audience much more than he was singing to it. New Politics set thankfully moved swiftly, and Paramore took the stage at 8 p.m. on the dot, just as the sun was setting. There is no question that Hayley Williams is the star of this band -- yes, she's the lead singer. Yes, she is the only woman on the stage. Yes, she wears the best stage attire I've seen on any self-styled non-costumed pop star since Gwen Stefani. But she also has an undeniable fucking fire that she expelled in droves over the course of an hour.
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Pogoing across the the stage in her neon and black attire -- a most likely unintentional but welcome throwback to the '90s Fly Girl style, complete with knee pads -- Williams set it off with "Still Into You." In perfect time, she shot her fist in the air and the massive, dwarfing LED screen behind her flashed pink to the beat. The older track, "That's What You Get," followed, packing the same punch as Paramore's more recent, glossy maneuvers.
Williams shared that the band was celebrating its ten-year anniversary, which seemed impossible considering how young its members are -- but its evolution proves the time has passed, with each phase of Paramore seeming better than the last. Williams talked openly about that evolution, thanking the fans for sticking around even as the members themselves were unsure of what was next. While some acts save the explosives and streamers for a big finale, Paramore let it all loose through out its hour-long set, shooting off bright strings of paper and and ticker tape every few songs. It kept the already energetic crowd screaming for more, Williams acting as the inciter of her own all-for-fun riot, jumping and kicking mid-air through songs like "Ignorance" and "Decode." Williams' manic energy clearly connects and inspires the band's fans, and being able to see her in action as she sings, smiles, waves and stops to chat with an amphitheater full of thousands of people was not only believable, but endearing.
The band brought it down a bit for "The Only Exception," which Williams dedicated to Robin Williams. But the solemn feeling quickly dissipated and "Brick By Boring Brick" and "Misery Business" shot through the night, the audience singing along passionately with the lead singer. At one point toward the end of the set, Williams rested on the floor in child's pose, her slight frame almost disappearing into the large, dark stage.
She eventually catapulted back up with even more energy, as curtains dropped to reveal massive pillars of disco balls. The light show only went more insane from there, matching Williams' unending intensity. Fans were brought on stage to sing at various moments and the now-normal "band takes a selfie with the audience" commenced. But even with all of this fanfare, Paramore managed to pack in as many songs as they could in what felt like a too-short set. Not wasting much time, Fall Out Boy came out soon after, with a stage set up that felt like it was trying to out-do Paramore's. But the thing with Paramore is, the band could be playing at your high school on a riser, with no lights, and the show would still be awesome. FOB replaced the streamers with flames, for a show that seemed more Motley Crüe than cool. Overall, the fire and flash didn't matter -- Fall Out Boy is and always has been a band for lyrics junkies. Starting with opening track "The Phoenix," the crowd's unified voice immediately drowned out Patrick Stump's own. This was, of course, a testament to how much we love to sing along with him. But also, it must be said that the sound was weak. At points during the show, it seemed like he wasn't singing at all and the audience was doing all the work. To Stump's credit, he knew when he wasn't going to be heard, choosing instead to conduct his choir at Red Rocks through songs like "A Little Less Sixteen A Little More Touch Me," "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" and "Dance, Dance." But it would have been nice if Fall Out Boy was turned up just a little. FOB did a wonderful job of playing a little bit from each miniature era the band has gone through, bringing out a different generation of FOB fan, whether it was a track from Infinity on High, Take This To Your Grave or Save Rock and Roll. The band's newer records definitely have their share of fans, but when the band went into "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," fists were pumped and the FOB army revealed itself. There were some parts of the set that felt dumb and cheesy and made me miss old, not-a-lot-of-money having Fall Out Boy -- like the GoPros attached to every instrument and the live feed that appeared on too many screens on the stage that was distracting. Or when Stump joined drummer Andy Hurley in a collaborative drum-off, which was cheesy. Or when Pete Wentz rolled out a t-shirt cannon. A t-shirt cannon. But even with all of the circusy, highfalutin stage crap going on, Fall Out Boy was still Fall Out Boy. "Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy" was a wonderful trip back to FOB's early days, when Top 8s ruled and its lyrics fit perfectly within the crazy declarations of love that filled the Myspace profiles of many an scene-haired fan. But as fast as we were sent back into that time, we were tossed back into a 2014 reality as Stump sat at down at a piano for a shortened cover of Queen's "We Are the Champions," which rolled into the FOB/Elton John collabo, "Save Rock and Roll."
With no farewell officially announced, Fall Out Boy left the stage. After a few minutes of darkness, the dudes returned for "I Don't Care," which the crowd fell hard for. But it was the deep cut, the FOB back-in-the-day track "Saturday" that topped it all. Longtime fans rejoiced. Even with all of the gaudy pyrotechnics, multi-level stages, live camera feeds and t-shirt cannons, Fall Out Boy showed that no passing fad could keep the dudes from being one of the best pop rock bands of the last two decades.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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