Music Reviews

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The Forum, Inglewood, Calif.
Saturday, June 23


Emo? What emo? This was modern hit rock, and the screamos were coming from the numerous girls in the crowd as Fall Out Boy has been crowned the latest area-rock heroes. But who knew that the group really wanted to be an '80s hair band, unleashing silly pyrotechnics onstage?

The Chicago-area band's headlining performance during the Honda Civic Tour stop at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday night was full of excessive explosions, fireworks, pillars of shooting flame and streaming confetti. And the kid audience that filled about half the venue -- mostly teens and tweens -- just loved it as they loudly sang along with almost every song.

Luckily, the group is armed with hook-rich material full of wry and ironic lyrics written by bandleader-bassist Pete Wentz, including on such hits as "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" and "Dance Dance," carried by the pinched tenor of always-capped singer-guitarist Patrick Stump. Atop a two-level platform of ramps and risers, drummer Andy Hurley turned in some solid bash work, while lead guitarist Joe Trohman charged and bounced about issuing riffs and string-stings.

A cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was introduced as the "greatest song ever written" (hardly, though the group did nail it), and Wentz even attempted political commentary, urging the crowd to pay less attention to Paris Hilton and more to the war in Iraq. The group then launched into the top-five hit "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," which was accompanied by military images on the supersize video screen behind the band.

The stop-down shtick bits -- which included the band changing outfits onstage in darkened glass booths as well as the tour's emcee in a makeshift batting cage taking baseballs blasted out of a pitching machine -- were wasteful. Along with the endless boom-and-sparkle effects, it all lessened the emotional impact of the group's songs.

Fall Out Boy might be the new arena golden gods, but if the group wants to be more, it should shed the gimmicks to look beyond these teen rock hero moments.

From some mohawks to tattoos a' plenty, second-billed +44 looks like it might be a hardcore outfit, but the band headed by former blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker came off as Blink Part Two, without the toilet humor. The songs were compact and catchy but also too punk-pop generic, while the group also played Blink's "The Rock Show" to push the crowd's happy button.

More impressive was the potential-filled the Academy Is ..., also out of Chicago and labelmates with the Fall Outs on the Fueled By Ramen imprint. Lanky frontman William Beckett is a rock-star natural with mike stand-wielding moves and a commanding but giving presence. The band songs, including numbers from their latest release, "Santi," distributed through Atlantic, were sharp and varied pop-rock detonations. Look for this band to break out big-time in the next year.

The show also featured insufferable, obnoxious Paul Wall, who milks every cliche in rap history, and Cobra Starship, best known for its theme for the moronic "Snakes on a Plane" movie, though bassist-singer Victoria Asher, who joined +44 for a song, brought a needed female touch to the all-boy fest.
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