Anticipation runs wild as people queue outside Band On A Wall in Manchester.
To an average passerby, this might not seem such an unusual sight for the iconic music venue, but the fans know this is no ordinary occurrence. The date is 15 March 2023, and it is less than an hour till people are let into a very special Fall Out Boy show at the venue. While the fans speak only of excitement and the joy of being part of what’s been presented to be the best of intimate experiences, it would be natural to doubt the band’s ability to deliver what was promised. After all, Fall Out Boy has been selling out and performing at the arena level for almost a decade. So who are they once you remove the intrinsic stage design, lighting rigs, and flares? Do they still have the ability to connect with an audience in a grassroots setting? As the doors open and fans start piling in, we know we are about to find out.
The sold-out room is packed, and you can feel the tension rising as the wait grows longer, until eventually, with an intro leading into the first single ‘Love From the Other Side’ off the band’s forthcoming album, they appear on stage. The crowd instantly erupts into song, screaming every lyric even though the song only came out on January 18 this year. As the set goes on, you might expect this original sense of euphoria to die down, but, if anything, it only grows stronger with every word Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz say. Halfway through the set, while they play ‘Dance Dance,’ a single that was a hit from their 2005 breakout album, it becomes evident that any initial doubts about the band’s capability to deliver the experience promised were unfounded.
They have complete control of the room as they continue the set by playing songs covering the last 20 years of their discography. The vocal and technical performances from all the band members were excellent, possibly better than they’ve ever been. And as the crowd holds on to every word, you can feel the sense of celebration in the air. From the stage, Wentz comments how this feels like a show they would have played back in the day, and being in the room; you are inclined to believe him.
For a second, everything in the venue feels timeless, just a band celebrating their music with 500 people that could not think of a single place they would rather be. I do not think anyone there wished the experience would ever end, but end it must. As Pete climbs into the audience to scream out the final lyrics of their song ‘Saturday,’ it becomes clear this is the last hoorah of the night. As the lights come back up and people begin to exit the venue, you can see the audience’s stunned faces, who know they have just witnessed something special that might never be replicated in the same way ever again.