For a certain segment of the MySpace generation, bands like Fall Out Boy and Paramore represent a sweet spot of a scene-hopping adolescence. To varying degrees, both bands have endured where their shaggy-haired, skinny-jeaned contemporaries have evaporated. The two acts bringing their joint “Monutmentour” to the Austin360 Amphitheater on Saturday night still put out multi-platinum records today.
In that regard, they are natural tour mates. In other regards? Not so much.
Act I: Paramore
Let’s just spell out Hayley Williams’ energy level Saturday night. She was doing jumping jacks on stage in boxing shorts.
You’ve got to wonder how the lead singer of Paramore warms up backstage, because she literally comes out swinging actual punches. Williams certainly looked like she was ready for a fight Saturday, pairing her Pacquiao pants with a multicolored sports bra, knee pads and torn stockings. From the first notes of “Still Into You,” Williams seemed like she had just dropped in from the middle of a whole other set, eyes — slathered in perpetually smudging glittery teal eyeshadow to match her signature neon hair — completely fixated on the prize.
It’s a little jolting to realize that Williams, guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis — now playing monster arena shows with well-oiled aplomb — were once a plucky Warped Tour act. But this was one of “those” shows: the kind where the entire audience religiously sings every word, even emo chestnuts like 2005 single “Pressure.” Thunder-voiced Williams in particular doesn’t get enough credit for her seasoned skills as a frontwoman. It’s galling that anyone would think of her as a pop princess after seeing her hoist her mic stand aloft like a barbell during “Brick By Boring Brick” or witnessing her strut with aerobic sweatiness through “Decode” and “Proof.” She’s not Britney or Gaga, or even the Hot Topic icon she might have once been. She’s Pat Benatar by way of Xena.
Paramore’s half of Monumentour served up electrifying professionalism from start to finish. Williams threw out a disclaimer after a rousing “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic”: “I’m not accountable for anything I say or do. I’m on a lot of pain medicines,” she warned. “I’m gonna float through some of these headbangs.” If Saturday’s performance was floating, one wonders if a Paramore running at full capacity even leaves a stage still standing in its wake.
Busting out the strobes ‘n’ smoke for breakout hit “Misery Business,” a hip thrusting Williams led the band through the definition of a crowd pleaser before bringing up a fan to sing the song’s bridge and final chorus. (And yes, she took a selfie with the fan.) A seamlessly blended performance of “Let the Flames Begin” and “Part II” brought things to a head. The stage bathed in red light, Williams crumpled to the floor wailing of “glory” and “mercy” as if worshipping in a church with a particular affinity for Cure songs.
As preordained by the summer radio gods, Paramore took their victory lap on “Ain’t It Fun.” Leading into the soulful bridge, Williams yelled to the crowd “I’m gonna take y’all to church” as an entire amphitheater became a gospel choir intoning “Don’t go crying to your mama/’Cause you’re on your own in the real world.” Paramore had no time for such isolation, though, taking cool-down laps around the stage long after the final note. The trio circled around each other, throwing up hands of gratitude to fans from every corner of the stage. “Knockout” came to mind.
Even though Saturday night’s concert was ostensibly a co-headlining gig, you can’t deny that Paramore left closers Fall Out Boy with a delighted audience. It’s a shame that the latter band so thoroughly squandered their inheritance.
Act II: Fall Out Boy
Gunpowder erupted from above the stage. Multiple television screens flitted through assorted visceral images. Stage smoke swirled. Fall Out Boy, clad in all black and faces as dour as Puritans, emerged from beneath the stage, launching into “The Phoenix.” Bassist Pete Wentz was wearing a cape over his butt.
Even Gene Simmons would have said “Maybe you guys should tone it down a little.”
Fall Out Boy’s bloated Saturday night set brought nothing but questions to mind. How did a clever little pop-punk band from the suburbs of Chicago end up mired in a contrived slog that’s equal parts hair metal spectacle and dad rock dullness? If this is all “artistic exploration,” why does the band seem so unenthusiastic about the songs they’re playing?
Why is Pete Wentz shouting at me?
Why is no one in the band smiling? Do they not realize that they are still booking arenas despite not remotely resembling the band that won mid-2000s teenage hearts with “Sugar, We’re Going Down”?
Does Pete Wentz not know how microphones work? Because he’s still yelling at me.
What unspeakable sin did amiable and amply talented — capable of low bluesy growls and signature high-pitched chirps — vocalist Patrick Stump commit to be consigned to this stagebound mess? Does he resent being the only one that seems to care? Why is he the only band member smiling? Is it to keep the tears from escaping the corners of his eyes?
Why won’t anyone tell Pete Wentz to stop screaming at me? Is he mad at me? What did I do, Pete?
Sadly, few answers emerged from a whirlwind tour through Fall Out Boy’s discography. There were glimmers of hope, mostly shining from the songs that put the band on the map, like a crowd pleasing performance of “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy.” Even moments like that — or like when Stump drew a heart in the air during “Dance, Dance,” in reference to that song’s video — seemed less like high points and more like bittersweet memories of better times in a now-toxic relationship.
Perfunctory shifts from hit to hit, with tracks from latest album “Save Rock and Roll” peppered here and there, seemed not like fine-tuned expertise but rote obligations. The band remained stoic throughout, save for Wentz’s raw-throated and generic crowd work and Stump’s genuine-but-silent congeniality. (Who knows what was going on behind the robotic facades of drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman? Maybe they were thinking about their grocery lists or wondering why Pete Wentz is unable to modulate his voice.)
And yet, despite an entirely mechanical set, Fall Out Boy managed to turn out a genuinely entertaining encore of “Thnks fr th Mmrs” and “Saturday.” They even managed to smile a couple times. It’s a shame that the once packed crowd on the floor had thinned out so considerably by then.