How this summer's Monumentour testifies to the resilient role of rock 'n' roll | Music Feature | Indy Week
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How this summer's Monumentour testifies to the resilient role of rock 'n' roll 

During a humid tour stop in Darien Lake, N.Y., earlier this month, onetime-tabloid favorite, former Ashlee Simpson spouse and Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz expressed elation.

His Chicago-born quartet is spending the summer with the Tennessee-bred Paramore, together roaming the country for their playfully dubbed "Monumentour." The two headliners, Wentz said, were rock bands playing arenas and amphitheaters at a time when the notion of guitar-based outfits seems altogether out of fashion. It was a feat.

But turning the Monumentour into a rock-versus-the-kids-don't-care battle discounts what might be most important about it: Fall Out Boy and Paramore have become exemplars of the willingness to evolve in the face of internal and external chaos. Last year, Paramore regrouped after losing 40 percent of its roster, releasing an album that offered a master class in mid-2010s pop. Fall Out Boy, meanwhile, roared back reenergized from a break, taking on the decidedly immodest mission to "save rock and roll." Above all, it's that resilience that's evident during the whirlwind Monumentour.

A decade ago, the two bands were close neighbors within the pop consciousness because of crunchy, whoop-along singles: the nervy "Dance, Dance," by Fall Out Boy, and the gleefully vengeful "Misery Business," by Paramore.

Fall Out Boy spent an unfair amount of time serving as pop's whipping boys for reasons that exposed the media's uglier biases—"guyliner," "music liked by girls" and so on. They leveraged their punchline status into self-lacerating lyrics about fame, penned by Wentz, that reached their pinnacle with 2008's Folie A Deux, an openly wounded and audaciously great pop record. But a tepid commercial response to that album led to the band taking a hiatus in 2010. Paramore, too, have gone through the sometimes-awkward maturation process in public. In 2010, two founding members left the band abruptly, leaving blog posts and speculative stories in their wake.

The road to Monumentour began in April 2013, when Paramore released a self-titled statement of purpose, packed with biting lyrics and lapel-grabbing hooks. A week later, Fall Out Boy followed with the aggressively hooky, cameo-stuffed Save Rock and Roll. The two albums aren't so similar in sound, but their missions are nearly identical: They strive toward an ideal of rock 'n' roll that's as nakedly omnivorous as pop. The buffet in question might contain the Detroit MC Big Sean, who appears on Save, or the gospel choir that gives Paramore's summer-jam-in-waiting "Ain't It Fun" extra oomph. Both bands found new ways to beat back the naysayers.

Save Rock and Roll attempts its mission not by engaging in the sort of critic-approved, real-rock-is-back pantomime that might engender another Strokes-like hype cycle. Instead, they turned rock inside-out and gave the resulting canvas a kitchen-sink treatment. "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)," the first Save single and a stuttering jock jam, served as wall-to-wall carpeting for sports broadcasts, but the surrounding album remains complex and affecting. The wounded "Just One Yesterday," the war-flick-in-miniature "The Phoenix" and the doggedly triumphant title track (featuring Elton John) collide ambition and emotion.

Paramore is a bubbly, confident record, unashamedly moored to pop ambition. It's as though the trio that emerged from the old iteration of Paramore was suddenly a new, bracing, unabashed band. The big-sky guitars and breakneck drumbeats are still there, but they're pieces of a bigger whole that now includes spacious beats, instantly recognizable hooks and an excess of sing-along choruses.

Onstage this summer, the gleeful audacity of both bands takes the spotlight. Fall Out Boy's set divides its time between fresh songs and radio mainstays, like the stomping "I Don't Care" and the hip-shaking "'The Take Over, The Break's Over'." The show is full of pyrotechnics and flag-waving, with the gusto of frontman Patrick Stump inciting an already-primed crowd.

And Paramore's Hayley Williams is a firecracker, a frontwoman who wants her band to encompass not just bassist Jeremy Davis, guitarist Taylor York, drummer Aaron Gillespie and touring guitarists Jon Howard and Justin York but members of the audience, too. She commands the crowd while standing in front of a giant LED wall, wearing a pugilist's warm-up uniform. She invites kids on stage to sing along to "Misery Business." She confesses just how personal the Paramore track "Last Hope" is before it grows from a simple, winsome tune of dashed dreams into a power ballad worthy of cell-phone waving.

Enough confetti and streamers accompany the spectacle to make one wonder how many brooms exist in an amphitheater's cleanup arsenal. But even if the stagecraft were to vanish completely, both bands would remain compelling, delivering what might as well be hymns to those in attendance. There are moments during the Monumentour where the crowd takes over completely, delivering every word like churchgoers answering a pastor's call.

Salvation, you know?

Monumentour foregrounds the parallels between Fall Out Boy and Paramore, two rock bands that weathered market forces and sometimes-withering press to arrive at a place of strength and maturity. They've tossed caution to the wind, confetti to the crowd. It might not, as Fall Out Boy suggests, save rock 'n' roll, but it might make you believe that rock 'n' roll—discovering it, hearing it, making it—can save you.

This article appeared in print with the headline "My rock, my salvation"

  • Fall Out Boy and Paramore fighting the rock 'n' roll fight

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