MANSFIELD -- When you're playing to the instant gratification generation -- kids who consume messages, movies, and music on demand -- you don't dilly dally. You open your rock concert with a quantity of pyro, strobes, and explosions that used be reserved for over-the-top, sense-saturating encores. You arrange for band members to be projectiled from behind the industrial steel playground of a set so that they actually fly through the air before arriving on the stage. If you're pop-punk poster boys Fall Out Boy, you start the show fully, ridiculously cranked and try to stay that way for 90 minutes.
The effort was valiant, the outcome somewhat short of stellar as the Chicago four-piece careened through (mostly) choice nuggets from the past half-decade, plus a strangely faithful cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
Fall Out Boy is really, really good at one thing: nestling candied pop hooks in burly rock riffs. This recipe occasionally yielded a truly awesome sugar-metal rush: The early gem "Grand Theft Autumn," 2005's breakout hit "Sugar, We're Goin Down," and all three singles from the new album "Infinity on High" -- "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," "Thnks fr th Mmrs," and "The Take Over, The Breaks Over" -- were hard, sweet highs.
But the growing pains that plague "Infinity," Fall Out Boy's second major label disc, threw wrenches into the live show, too. In a gesture of artistic maturity the band chose to echo the chorus of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on their own "Hum Hallelujah" -- but delivered it in a bland dude chant that was irreverent in all the bad ways. And singer Patrick Stump's solo turn on the simpering soft-rocker "Golden" was close to dreadful -- a poor song choice compounded by a sound mix that seared everything to a crisp.
Bassist and songwriter Pete Wentz's pun-saturated, self-referential verbiage makes for a challenging singalong, and as belted by Stump, the emo Steve Perry, you couldn't catch a word. But the young crowd stumbled, passionately, through every overstuffed soliloquy, buoying their heroes so skillfully you hardly noticed when the band fell down to earth.
Former blink-182 cohorts Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker brought alt-rock gravitas to the snotty punk-pop formula with their new outfit +44, while The Academy Is. . . infused standard-issue emo with a playful dose of glam. Houston rapper Paul Wall swaggered through a tiresome, redundant set before getting to the point: plugging grillsbypaulwall.com.