Fall Out Boy may be the headliners, but The Academy Is… steals the show

By James Corcoran

The past weeks have been good for Fall Out Boy. The power-pop quartet from the Chicago suburbs (guitarist and lead vocalist Patrick Stump, vocalist and bassist Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman, and drummer Andy Hurley) released their sophomore effort, From Under the Cork Tree, on May 3. The album debuted in the ninth spot on the Billboard charts. They finished their 50-day headlining tour with an all-Chicago lineup at the sold-out Riviera Theatre for their record release show on Saturday, May 7. The hometown crowd eagerly awaited its first chance to hear the latest offering live.

The first band up was the eminently forgettable October Fall, which was just recently signed to Fueled By Ramen, the label that released Fall Out Boy’s first album, Take This to Your Grave. Unfortunately, everything this band did—from the dancing keyboardist to the lead singer asking the (mostly) teenaged crowd if they like sex—seemed like it had been done too many times before. The lackluster performance left me unimpressed.

Following October Fall was Spitalfield, a band that also had a recent record release. While many of its labelmates on Victory Records have experienced recent popular success, Spitalfield seems to be left behind. While it is talented band, and a few of its songs are quite catchy (for example, “I Love the Way She Said ‘L.A.'” and “Stolen From Some Great Writer”), it has never managed to break out, and this time was no exception. Spitalfield is entertaining and enjoyable, but you wouldn’t pay to see it as a headlining band.

The surprise of the evening was that the best performance was put forward by the third act, The Academy Is…, a power pop quintet also from Chicago and signed to Fueled By Ramen. Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz declared this band the next big thing to come out of Chicago, and in my opinion, he’s probably correct. Frontman William Beckett came out looking and acting every part the rock star he so clearly wants to be. Beckett has the on-stage antics of Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazarra—but with none of the mic-swinging—and, honestly, he has a better voice.

The band ripped through most of its new album, Almost Here, inspiring massive amounts of crowd-surfing with its first few songs. With lyrics like “So take your cold, cold heart and drown, and don’t forget to take deep breaths,” one might expect The Academy Is… to be yet another emo band wallowing in desperation and trying to cash in before the emo craze disappears. Yet the band comes off more honest than pathetic.

After The Academy Is…’s stellar set, Fall Out Boy came out to a warmed-up hometown crowd. Hitting the crowd in the face with their first song, “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today,” they didn’t let up and continued with fan favorites “Dead on Arrival” and “Calm Before the Storm.” Next, they introduced their first song off the new album, “Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner” (the iconic quote from Dirty Dancing). Did I mention that Fall Out Boy’s song titles are full of random movie references?

They followed this up with their first single, “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” which has a video that just debuted on MTV2. After returning to Take This to Your Grave with “Homesick at Space Camp,” they unveiled the song with the best title on the new album: “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued.” They interspersed old and new throughout the rest of their 14-song set, often stopping to thank the crowd for their support. In one burst of emo comeuppance, bassist Pete Wentz blasted those who had initially mocked them but were now dancing along as Fall Out Boy became popular.

The overall set was well played, but, as I mentioned earlier, Fall Out Boy did not put on the best set of the night. While frontman Stump’s falsetto-filled lyrics provided the musical saving grace of the band’s live show, the rest of the band seemed focused more on their onstage performance of spinning and swinging their guitars around than on musical accuracy. I thought this just detracted from their set.

Nevertheless, Fall Out Boy’s music is contagious. Containing such gems as “His smile’s your rope, so wrap it tight around your throat,” their songs have the dark tendencies of Alkaline Trio or My Chemical Romance but with none of the depression (and a lot less eyeliner). Their lyrics have a despondent nature to them, but the music is just too upbeat to be lumped together with their dark emo cousins. This reflects Fall Out Boy’s inability to take themselves too seriously. After all, they sing, “This has been said so many times that I’m not sure if it matters.”

After releasing a Top 10 album, launching a video on MTV2, and closing up a headlining tour, Fall Out Boy’s next big adventure is traveling along with the Warped Tour. While they are an excellent band that deserves to finally make it onto the national stage, don’t forget about The Academy Is…. If Wentz is right—and I think he is—they will be headlining national tours and putting videos on MTV2 in a year.