Fall Out Boy at the London O2: emo's poppiest graduates have evolved into a slick, showy, hit-stacked rock 'n' roll machine

Fall Out Boy brought the hits, a ton of pyro and a big dose of nostalgia to London's biggest arena

Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz on stage
(Image: © Chiaki Nozu/WireImage via Getty Images)

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We're not saying this crowd is pumped for Fall Out Boy tonight, but the fact that their well-meaning but slightly bizarre cover of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire, played over the PA before the emo icons hit the stage, is drawing bigger singalongs than this writer has seen during many an actual performance at this big ol' venue suggests we are in for one hell of an evening.

Before we get to all that, though, there's the not inconsiderable matter of tonight's main support, Pvris - a band who many tipped for a similar level of superstardom as this evening's headliners when their fantastic debut White Noise dropped almost a decade ago. It's not quite happened for them on that kinda of scale (yet?), but they certainly do enough to show that they're more than comfortable on stages of this size.

Frontwoman Lynn Gunn looks like a different person to the shy, unassuming singer of old; hair cut short, striding around the stage, guitar in hand, in a black vest, three-quarter length shorts and biker boots, she looks part 80s gutterpunk, part Sarah Connor-esque action hero, and her rich voice has never sounded so powerful live. Pvris' evolution from emotionally-charged synth-rock to glitchy, beat-driven pop alienated some fans, but their commitment to the cause is clear - over twice as many songs are played from their last two albums as from their first two tonight - but to their credit, its a style that absolutely suits big venues like these. 

Pvris get a warm enough reception, but it's a gentle cough in an empty warehouse compared to the hysteria that greets Fall Out Boy's arrival. Kicking into Love From The Other Side with a burst of pyro, emo's most pop-savvy graduates proceed to to rattle through an impressive 28-song set that includes hallmark favourites, beloved oldies, rare cuts, live debuts and a cheeky cover or two (including a misfiring version of Blur's Song 2 that draws some of the limpest crowd 'Wooo-hooo!'s you'll ever see. Whoops!).

Of all those, it's no surprise which tracks draw the biggest reactions: Sugar, We're Goin Down is casually tossed out just three songs in, drawing singalongs that almost drown out the band, while the likes of This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race, Dance Dance and Thnks Fr Th Mmrs elicit all kinds of giddy bedlam. The band's shameless march towards an ultra-polished, mainstream-baiting sound through the 2010s may have drawn the ire of old school diehards, but you can't deny how at home songs like My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark and Centuries sound in arenas.

Fall Out Boy have also produced a show befitting of their status as one of the New Millennium's biggest rock bands. Tonight there's fireworks, bursts of flame (including from Pete Wentz's bass), interactive screens (Magic 8 Ball!), epic set pieces (one moment we're deep under the sea, giant, spinning starfish and all, the next we're in an enchanted forest), plus bonus confetti, bubbles and a giant, Eddie-esque doberman head chomping away at the back of the stage. It all makes for one of the slickest and most beautifully crafted stage shows you're likely to see this year, the lowering of the light rig to create a cosier environment in which to smash out a trio of Take This To Your Grave cuts a particularly neat touch.

The band themselves are as tight and polished as you'd expect at this point, their presence elevated tenfold by Patrick Stump, whose love for the game doesn't seem to have dropped an inch as he marches, jives, and struts around the stage. His voice - sometimes a little on the wobbly side in years gone by - is ageing like a fine wine and sounds pitch-perfect tonight, while his piano interlude - apparently here at the suggestion of Wentz - is a sweet little touch. 

Wentz himself is giving a rather different energy - his vibe more 'jamming in the garage on a hungover Sunday' than 'playing a major rock arena show' as he lackadaisically ambles around the stage in a hoody, half-hearted spins and all. His stage patter is less than inspiring, too; one meandering speech about keeping the spirit of Halloween going all year round quickly runs out of steam, leading him to cut his losses and introduce the next song. He just about gets away with it thanks to remaining the coolest-looking fucker in the room - and to be fair, his emergence halfway into the crowd during Dance Dance draws deliriously excited cheers from those now finding themselves unexpectedly close to him.  

Fall Out Boy's latest album So Much (For) Stardust may have run head-first back into the anthemic emo on which they first built their brand, but make no mistake about it: this is a band who have reached the kind of slick, ultra-polished hookiness that they've spent most of their career aiming for, and tonight, they've put on a show worthy of that status. Job done.

Fall Out Boy London O2 setlist November 2

1. Love From The Other Side
2. The Phoenix
3. Sugar, We're Goin Down
4. Uma Thurman
5. A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'
6. Dead On Arrival
7. Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy
8. Calm Before The Storm
9. This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race
10. Disloyal Order Of Water Buffalos
11. Heaven, Iowa
12. Bang The Doldrums
13. Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet
14. Fake Out
15. Mr. Blue Sky
16. I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers
17. Golden
18. So Much (For) Stardust
19. Baby Annihilation
20. Song 2
21. Dance, Dance
22. Hold Me Like A Grudge
23. The (Shipped) Gold Standard
24. Young Volcanoes
25. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)
26. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
27. Centuries
28. Saturday

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.