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Fall Out Boy seize their moment at Download Festival

FOB deliver a tribute to two decades of pop-punk supremacy for their debut headline slot at Download


It’s been a decade since Fall Out Boy last set foot a Download stage. Last here in 2014 – then fresh from their reunion and playing shortly before Linkin Park’s landmark headline set – this year it was the Chicago boys’ turn to take the coveted top spot.

Fighting a certain amount of doubt from heavy metal purists doubtful of the pop-punk legends’ worthiness of standing where they are, they were also battling the elements. A day of sporadic downpours reducing the already swampy ground to an expanse of muddy rivers, by the time the Apex Stage lights went spirits were certainty in need of a lift.

Luckily, that’s just what Fall Out Boy deal in best. Lights coming up to reveal frontman Patrick Stump onstage, he’s lying in a hospital bed. Eyes opening as the gentle introduction of 2008 album opener ‘Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes’ chimes, he peels back the sheets and steps onstage. Joined by his bandmates as the song cuts, the four-piece hit the rewind button. Confused faces plastered upon the tens of thousands gathered before them, unsure about what they’re about to witness, all is revealed.

Welcome to the Eras Tour; Fall Out Boy edition. 

Barrelling into ‘Chicago Is So Two Years Ago’, a fan-favourite cut from their 2003 debut album, something special awaits the crowd tonight. Eight albums into their career – with the most recent addition of 2023’s triumphant So Much (For) Stardust – Fall Out Boy are in the mood for a celebration. 

Giving each chapter of their 20-plus year career a moment in the spotlight, the first half of their set is packed tight with singalongs. Dropping the iconic ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ just three songs into the evening, a wave of energy surges through the festival grounds. Nostalgia taking over as ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ cuts ‘Dance, Dance’ and ‘A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”’ continue the party, by the time album deep cut ‘Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part To Save The Scene And Stop Going To Shows)’ sees Stump and bassist Pete Wentz trading vocals – the former’s soulful croon crashing against the latter’s raspy scream – the whole of Donington Park is wide awake.

Knocking out a handful of their biggest hits in the first 15 minutes of their set, Wentz struts across the stage in a dark cloak, long hair flowing in the breeze. Seasoned festival headliners by this point, there’s a confidence exuding from every corner of the stage, asserting that even though punters had their doubts – Fall Out Boy were made for this. 

“Last time we played here was 10 years ago,” Wentz reflects, admitting that they were feeling slightly nervous about coming back.

“… but 80,000 of you guys have made us feel better already.”

A winged sheep appears onstage to pay homage to the album’s cover; selections from 2007’s Infinity On High include anthemic opener ‘Thriller’ and a crowd-pleasing rendition of ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’. The backdrop replaced by two piggy-backing bears as the quartet pick up where the night started, tatted-up drummer Andy Hurley pounds his kit beneath a swarm of red lights on the driving Folie à Deux track ‘Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes’. 

The pyro budget surely maxed out to mark the band’s 2013 comeback on Save Rock And Roll, Wentz dons a bass that doubles up as a flamethrower, shooting out fiery blasts from its neck during explosive poppier cuts ‘The Phoenix’ and ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up’). Monochrome visuals of the stars and stripes mark our arrival at the band’s American Beauty / American Psycho era, masked cheerleaders join the stage for danceable number ‘Uma Thurman’ before the lights go down and the band exit stage.

With Stump raised high to perch at the top of a mountain structure, purple hues shine on the frontman, who’s now behind a piano. ‘The Last Of The Real Ones’ serves as a brief tribute to 2018 album MANIA, and after a piano interlude, we’re back up to speed on Fall Out Boy history. The driving title track of their most recent album bleeds into a propulsive rendition of ‘Love From The Other Side’, and as his bandmates rejoin the stage Stump’s voice has never sounded so powerful. A reminder that after 20 years they’re still churning out some of the best songs in the scene, tonight is a victory lap for FOB. 

From scrappy punk beginnings practising in basements and cutting their teeth in the local scene, Fall Out Boy have come a long way. A band who have evolved and grown exponentially over the last two decades, there’s no denying that they’re worthy of a moment like this. Rain doing little to deter the crowd as the night climaxes in the same way as nearly every show the band have ever played, ‘Saturday’ brings a final singalong as Wentz is hoisted up off the stage by balloons. Returned to ground as he runs towards the crowd to scream the track’s closing refrains amongst the front rows, confetti rains down. A triumphant conclusion to a set laden with nostalgia, as fireworks light up the skies – Saturday night belongs to Fall Out Boy.


Tickets for next year’s Download Festival are on sale now here.

Photo credit: Marie Ladisch