Amid a 2014 State Fair grandstand lineup heavy with rock acts on their way down (Linkin Park, Kid Rock) or long since faded from the charts (Journey, the Turtles), Thursday's double scoop of Fall Out Boy and Paramore offered a refreshing changeup of bands actually bounding their way back up.
Both of Thursday's grandstand groups admirably overcame troubled periods to launch comebacks over the past year. Chicago's slick emo-punk quartet Fall Out Boy returned from a semi-acrimonious four-year hiatus to land another top 20 single. Tennessee-bred new wavy rockers Paramore, led by hair-dye-loving starlet Hayley Williams, survived a major lineup change to wind up in Billboard's top 10.
Playing to 9,539 ticket-holders, both bands blended their new hits with old favorites — "old" as in the twenty-somethings singing along in the crowd were mere teenagers when they first came out. There were a lot of teens and preteens, too, who seemed especially smitten with Paramore.
Akin to Tuesday night's grandstand doubleheader with Linkin Park and 30 Seconds to Mars, the middle-slot band on Thursday had far and away the more charismatic and dynamic star of the night vs. the headliner.
A decadelong concert veteran at only age 25, Paramore's Williams rushed the stage to the opening riff of "Still Into You" wearing turquoise hair and sporty gym wear as brightly colored as the neon on the nearby Midway rides. Her attire included Everlast-style boxing trunks with her group's name written across the band, and lo and behold, her delivery was nearly a knockout.
Williams roared out spunky, punky rockers such as "Ignorance" with nary a hint of fatigue. She just as capably sat at her piano and swooned in the heartachey ballad "The Only Exception," and her fist-pumping pop melodies in hits like "Brick by Boring Brick" were rock solid.
Some of her strongest moments were in tunes off last year's self-titled album, including the finale "Ain't It Fun," in which she had the crowd sing the gospel-like outro vocals. A new spark was also lit in the group by drummer Aaron Gillespie, perhaps the only one of Williams' five male bandmates who could really keep up with her in a ring.
Unlike the way Paramore varied its set stylistically, Fall Out Boy was pretty much all crash, boom and heavy pop throughout the first half of its 80-minute set. The quartet started off picking heavily from its rawer-sounding, pompously titled new album, "Save Rock and Roll."
With a Nickelback-ian array of pyro lighting the way, show opener "The Phoenix" dutifully sparked the crowd's excitement, but the energetic output on stage was nowhere near matched by the audience's interest in the drab new "Death Valley" or "Alone Together."
If Fall Out Boy needed reassurance it still has a fanatical audience, though, it got it big-time in the end. The band's standards from before its hiatus were greeted with ear-piercing cheers and loud, giddy singalongs, including "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" and "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" in the first half and "Thnks fr th Mmrs" during the encore. Singer/guitarist Patrick Stump was in sturdy, ultra-emo voice all night, and he, too, pulled off a nice mellower turn with "Miss Missing You."
As usual, Fall Out Boy's chief lyricist, bassist and pinup boy, Pete Wentz, did most of the talking between songs, from once again referencing summers he spent in Minnesota as a kid at Camp Chippewa — anyone starting to suspect he's making that up? — to his speech about being "in direct control of your happiness."
"You don't wake up one morning and it automatically gets better," he said, sounding suspiciously like someone who overate at the fair's food stands and didn't have a Tums handy.