Fall Out Boy Concert, 3/16/06 at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY

The Pepsi Arena, one of the largest entertainment venues in Albany, hosted the first night of the Black Clouds and Underdog tour, featuring headliners Fall Out Boy, The All-American Rejects, and Hawthorne Heights to a sold-out house. The opening band, From First To Last, made their first of several appearances on the tour as well last Wednesday night, March 15th 2006.
From First to Last began the show exactly half an hour late at 7pm, playing a lineup of songs that seemed more akin to a Three Days Grace concert than the emo/punk event they’d been scheduled with. By in large the fans were either disillusioned or bored, allowing for a slow start to the evening. The band didn’t have much in the way of stage presence, but the major downfall of their performance was still the fact that their music fit the crowd about as well as Britney Spears would fit into the lineup of a Slipknot concert.

Despite a fairly bad start, Hawthorne Heights was able to pull the crowd in before they’d even stepped onstage; the giant banners used as a backdrop for each group were more than indicative of each band’s name, as only forty-foot-tall words can be.

It was at the opening of the song ‘Niki FM’ that the young fans, mostly between the ages of 14 and 18, developed a shocking lack of self control; partially-filled water bottles careened through the air, dangerous mosh pits popped up like wild fires in an arid forest, and several fans from the seating area tried to break into the pit by means of rushing the floor attendants and barreling into the crowd on the floor.

Meanwhile, Hawthorne Heights followed up From First to Last’s dismal performance by delivering a disappointingly short set themselves of only five songs. The band was also rather self-deprecating, continually crediting the crowd with the simple act of listening, as though this were some colossal feat their barbaric onlookers could only manage to achieve every few days at best.

Another short reprieve in the music and violence brought The All-American Rejects onstage, this time upping the anti on the degree of crowd unruliness; the bands were increasing in notoriety, which caused the destructive behaviors to increase. Where flying bottles had provided a breath of cold refreshment and a giddy laugh nearly an hour ago when their presence was first noticed, now their arching paths were drawing close to the performers and their contents were no longer as easily identifiable.

In spite of all this, The All-American Rejects pulled off another depressingly short set of five songs, including “Dirty Little Secret,” “Swing Swing,” and “Move Along.” Their name-emblazoned banner was particularly striking in that, under the stage lights, the letters blanked out and the entire faÃ?§ade worked like a black-light-sensitive poster, creating attention-grabbing effects.

Their untimely departure from the stage was quickly followed by a large white sheet falling from the ceiling to conceal the stage change for Fall Out Boy, which consequently ended up being a series of pro-suicide banners and a different series of images that closely resembled the ambiences from Windows Media Player for the huge monitors on either side of the arena.
The screaming intensified as Fall Out Boy geared up for a long and resultingly tedious set of over fifteen songs, including “Dance, Dance,” “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down,” Dead On Arrival,” “Tell That Mick He Just Mae My List of Things to Do,” and “Saturday.”

Injuries were abundant during this final phase; bloody noses, black eyes, sprained and bruised ribs, cut legs, mashed toes, and a bloodied head and subsequent concussion from a failed crowd-surfing attempt were among the most notable occurrences in the pit during Fall Out boy’s appearance. The bottles were still ubiquitous, as were the sporadic and short-lived mosh pits. The floor was sticky with beer and other unidentifiable liquids, which did aid slightly in keeping feet stuck to the ground rather than kicking in mosh pits or being swept out from under some unsuspecting dancer.

There was a fleeting feeling of oneness as the crowd was encouraged to make some outlandish bat symbol with their fingers and thereby encourage the band back for an encore, but a member of the band’s entourage came on during this brief reprieve and amused the crowd with some extreme vulgarity; after offer a cup to several of the fans in the front of the arena for them to spit in, he mixed the collective saliva with beer and cigarette ashes and drank the whole concoction in one down.

The entire evening wasn’t a loss, though; the pyrotechnics that erupted behind the band as they tore into “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” sent a wave of heat searing over the faces of the crowd as they cheered and leapt, pumping their fists and throwing each other helter-skelter onto one another’s heads. The band was energetic and talked frequently to the crowd, cursing them out nearly as often as encouraging them, and even managed a wardrobe change during their break between sets.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend this tour to anyone, simply by the fact that so many unruly younger fans show up and ruin the experience. There’s not much dancing, creating an atmosphere of a mixed up middle-school dance, where the main activity is seeing whose outfit looks the smartest or flashes the most skin. While the event did let out early enough, it put too much emphasis on Fall Out Boy and really ignored some of the better music from The All-American Rejects and From First to Last. And really, the next time I get so bored with my music that I’m forced to watch the ambiences in my Media Player, I’ll start playing solitaire or mine sweeper.

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