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On September 21, approximately 7,000 die hard fans of all ages lined up throughout and around America’s Cup Pavilion in San Francisco for Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At The Disco, and Fall Out Boy.

They stretched and up and down both sides of The Embarcadero by Pier 27, where the Pavilion was set up.

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And once the doors opened, no one had to wait long for the bands to set up, or the show to begin. Soon after the crowd settled, the music started, and out came two dancers in full face-covered skeleton hoodies; Twenty One Pilots.

The indietronica hip-hop duo from Columbus, Ohio took the crowd by storm as they both jumped and ran across the stage to their various prerecorded beats and backing loops, engaging the audience and rallying everyone up for the following acts.

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At first I was disappointed by 21 Pilots’ overuse of backing tracks. They played samples for simple things such as guitar progressions and bass lines, and only used the piano and drum kit selectively in certain verses of each song. But they made up for a lack of performance by keeping an entertaining rapport with the crowd.

Lead singer Tyler Joseph was self-aware about their opening-act status, and understood it was his band’s job to pump the crowd up for Fall Out Boy and Panic!. And that’s just what they did. Tyler surfed over the crowd during their hit song “Holding Onto You,” and won the audience over with the softer, ukelele-backed  “House Of Gold,” which he dedicated to his supportive mother.

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The wait time between sets was surprisingly short. Just minutes after the stage was cleared and repurposed with faceless mannequins, the backing keyboard to Panic! At The Disco’s “Time To Dance” came on and the entire band and crowd alike came alive.

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While their set was limited to only ten songs, lead singer Brendon Urie put on a spectacular performance. Dancing and backflipping through hit after hit, he used a raised looping and voice effect station for their two latest singles “Miss Jackson” and “This Is Gospel.”

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Urie had the crowd in the palm of his hand and his odd, hand-shaped microphone stand as everyone sang along with him. He promoted their upcoming album Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, and also impressed his closest fans by doing an entire (slightly inaudible) hardcore freestyle verse otherwise known by his Vine and Twitter followers as “Positive Hardcore Saturday.” Panic! At The Disco closed their set with two beloved songs, “Nine In The Afternoon” and their biggest hit “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” Within seconds of the final note, they were promptly off the stage.

But that didn’t mean Fall Out Boy were fast up. Not as quick as their two openers, they took time to assemble grand props like the elaborate elevated piano, and a second surprise acoustic stage across near the bleachers.

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Finally after many unsynchronized and impatient “Fall Out Boy” chants from the audience, the symphonic intro to “The Phoenix” bellowed from the speakers and the four awaited members took to the stage in black ski masks, with their music video playing behind them.

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The masks were off by second song and the band began to roll through their set, featuring solos by guitarist Joe Trohman, drummer Andy Hurley, and a guest appearance by Brendon Urie on “20 Dollar Nose Bleed.” Other highlights included a piano cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” and the acoustic performances by Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz of “I’m Like A Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off,” and “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy.”

Overall the show was impressive and inspiring. Fall Out Boy owned the stage and played to the entire crowd, making a point to get the fans in the back stands involved. Their set featured a solid array of new and old hits.

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But during their encore I was sort of given a reality check. They came out and gave a speech on the current state of rock music, and how it was their goal to “save” it from the auto-tuned and photoshopped ‘musicians’ currently running the industry. The sad fact is, Fall Out Boy is not a rock and roll band. They are a pop punk band, with emphasis on the pop. And that’s not a bad thing, because their performance and delivery is fantastic. But they need to be honest with themselves. For instance, during their encore ballad “Save Rock And Roll” they didn’t project lyrics onto their backdrop’s screen, which would have fit the spirited mood of the song. Instead, they played a slideshow of rock stars that included talents like Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Beatles, Kurt Cobain, Public Enemy, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan. Honestly, the film just didn’t really fit with their music, and its overall effect resonated as a pompous, self-proclamation of themselves as “saviors” of such a diverse and historically fueled genre.

Fall Out Boy are not Led Zeppelin. They are not even close to Green Day on the pop-punk spectrum. And Fall Out Boy relating themselves to a genre they clearly are not left me disillusioned with their message. Unless rock and roll’s savior is pop music, they were off-base in proclaiming their rock prowess.

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Despite the sour aftertaste, their remaining songs absolved Fall Out Boy’s punk manifesto misstep, as it was hard to deny the power of their pop punk sound. After the ballad, they brought the energy back up and finished strongly with “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” and “Saturday,” leaving the exited crowd pleased and begging for just one more song, as any good arena show should end.

words by Atreyue Ryken and photos by Audrey Gertz

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