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MUSIC REVIEW

Fall Out Boy is top of the class

By James Reed
Globe Staff / April 30, 2009
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LOWELL - This is probably the only time I'll ever write this, so here goes: Fall Out Boy is a class act. At least it was Tuesday night at Tsongas Arena, where the pop-punk quartet headlined a five-act bill whose opening bands acted so jarringly sexual toward their squealing pubescent audience it's a wonder chaperoning parents didn't revolt.

Granted, as one mother explained between sets, we live in an age where children are accustomed to an R-rated culture. Still, it was disheartening when the guys of the Baltimore quartet All Time Low, living up to their moniker, asked the teenage girls in the sold-out arena to toss their sweaty bras (do training bras count?) onstage - and then sniffed them. Or when Metro Station guitarist-singer Trace Cyrus (Miley's older bro) kept commenting on how many sexy ladies were in the house. (In fairness, rush-hour traffic kept me from seeing Hey Monday, the first band, so they could have been perfect gentlemen for all I know.)

Not surprisingly, the music got better as the evening wore on. Metro Station tore through an early set of spiky, radio-ready hits but either a shoddy sound mix or the band's indifference kept the music woefully submerged. When not soliciting undergarments, All Time Low cranked out meaty guitar riffs as its members caromed off one another and worked the crowd up to a fever pitch. Better still was Cobra Starship, led by magnetic and frenetic frontman Gabe Saporta, who changed the title of "Smash It Up" to reflect the day's headlines: "This song is called 'Pete Wentz Is Spreading the Swine Flu.'. . ."

Wentz, who plays bass in Fall Out Boy but clearly is seen as the frontman, turned out to be the night's ringleader. He and his bandmates exuded a road-tested confidence as they tried to relay a message beyond the emo music. The first three songs, starting with "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes," were delivered in the guise of a lesson about the evils of a corporate world. Wentz, looking like a long-suffering senator, was as dour as his stuffy suit, and singer-guitarist Patrick Stump donned a Newt Gingrich wig.

A quick wardrobe change later and the sing-alongs came fast and furious: "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs," "I Don't Care," "America's Suitehearts," and an amusing cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

Countering an earlier request, Wentz asked the dudes to lob their sweaty T-shirts onstage and immediately caught one. At least it wasn't a training bra.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

FALL OUT BOY

With Cobra Starship, All Time Low, Metro Station, and Hey Monday

At: Tsongas Arena, Tuesday