Live Review: Fall Out Boy at Birmingham Utilita Arena, 31/10/2023

A rip-roaring set through FOB's greatest hits is a Halloween homecoming for misfit youth

“They talk of the spirit of Christmas, but no one ever talks of the spirit of Halloween,” says Pete Wentz, bassist of Fall Out Boy. Donned in a dishevelled medical gown and having long discarded his werewolf mask to unleash a surprising amount of long, bleached hair, he resembles a haunted Jesus. “For one night, Halloween gives you permission to be weird.” The crowd, baying at the stalls in their own spooky guises, prove the emo icon is in good company. 

Thousands of elder emos milling about Birmingham’s Utilita Arena on Halloween feels apt, the mid-00s teenage misfits finding comfort in revisiting a youth as the last great subculture. As with cosplayers at Comic Con, there is an unselfconscious air of being in a room with like-minded people, all accustomed to masking their weirdness by day and unleashing their strangeness by night. Jack and Sallys queue for beer. Zombies hustle their way through the crowd. Ghosts in baseball caps keep a good mix in the sound box. This is a halloween house party of epic proportions. 

The bands play along: openers nothing,nowhere take to the stage dressed as 2005 Fall Out Boy before deploying their blistering rap rock; later on, PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn is wheeled out dressed as everyone’s grandmother, a shtick she upholds throughout a set that leans heavily on latest album, EVERGREEN. A perfect hype band, they tear through fan favourites ‘Hallucinations’ and ‘My House’, Gunn taking an in-character pit stop to proffer a warm chocolate from her pocket. 

It is disorienting to think of Fall Out Boy as a band inching towards heritage territory, but eight albums in, their impact and adoration is undeniable. They perform onstage like a bunch of friends still somewhat bewildered by the scale of what they’ve achieved from their humble beginnings in Chicago’s hardcore scene, and still very much chugging away for the thrill of it. This year’s So Much (for) Stardust marked a homecoming for the four-piece, who returned to cult label Fueled By Ramen after two decades on a major. 

Sprinkling new tracks throughout their 28-strong set doesn’t phase them; fans attacking songs with as much gusto as their clutch of well-meaning covers (‘Don’t Stop Believing’, ‘Enter Sandman’, and Misfits’ ‘Halloween’) and their own classics. “20 years ago, we released an album,” Wentz says before launching into ‘Grand Theft Auto’, segueing seamlessly into ‘Dead On Arrival’ and ‘Calm Before The Storm’ from their debut album, Take This To Your Grave. A Swift-adjacent Eras tour, they tick off their own greatest hits; breakthrough single, ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’ is unleashed early on, alongside ‘A Little Less Sixteen Candles’ and ‘This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race’. A Beetlejuice-costumed Patrick Stump conversing with a gigantic puppeted dog’s head suspended from the ceiling. 

The scale of their production is theatrical, red curtain intermittently rising to reveal underwater worlds and flame throwers (including from the end of Wentz’s guitar); foam splurts onto the front row; a magic eight-ball conjures a rare performance of ‘You’re Crashing, But You’re No Wave’. Undeniably tight as a unit, being pared back to piano is where Stump’s flawlessly powerful vocal really gets a chance to shine. 

The enthusiasm they give to their audience belies their appreciation for being enabled to do this at all. In keeping with the day Wentz, too, is keen to share. “When I say ‘knock knock’, you say – TRICK OR TREAT!” He throws chocolate from a plastic pumpkin into the front rows of the crowd. Tonight, for Fall Out Boy fans, it’s all a treat.

Fall Out Boy continue their UK tour in London and Cardiff until November 4 – find tickets here.

Photo credit: Steve Thorne/Redferns