Their backdrop showed a man relaxing in his bath, about to be rudely awakened by a plugged-in toaster falling from above. If only Fall Out Boy could have shown such spark.
No matter how much they spun round, pogoed or jumped off speaker stacks, the latest heroes of parental-guidance punk showed a distinct lack of drama. Perhaps they had too much to say: the Chicago outfit have become mainstream pin-ups thanks to an audacious fusion of emo-rock's searing honesty and the pop sensibility of Green Day.
Also mixed in was a smidgen of straight-edged fundamentalism (no drugs or booze for three members), alongside a set of emotional problems topped by bassist Pete Wentz's overdose on prescribed meds for anxiety attacks. Given his particularly cute looks, and as their heart-on-sleeve spokesman, Wentz is central to Fall Out Boy's vilification by the hardcore fraternity. Bright and articulate, the college-educated lyricist also plays the role of entrepreneur, with his own clothing range plus a record label that has unleashed the more rhythm-based band Panic! At The Disco as well as The Hush Sound's folk-based style. To top it all, Fall Out Boy are mates with Jay-Z.
The band emerged to the sound of Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer", an odd choice. Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman, at least, constantly urged the crowd to participate, when they were not attempting to outdo each other in risky leaps over podiums and steps. The singer, Patrick Stump, meanwhile, hidden under a tightly worn trucker's cap, kept himself busy by playing the more complex guitar patterns and unleashing his extraordinary voice. He boasts the biggest set of lungs since the glory days of David Coverdale but was unable to add enough character to differentiate between Wentz's two types of song. Wentz writes so densely that the vocalist struggled to fit in the words.
Their only chance to make an impact was to cram in enough musical tics to suggest attention-deficit disorder, as sudden changes of pace and rapid fills instead of solos kept us on edge. Most successful was the hit single "Sugar, We're Going Down", with its slabs of industrial sound crowbarred into a three-minute pop structure. "The Music Or The Misery" suggested the band were becoming less fidgety. It was very slick, but with constant calls to join the Fall Out Boy "family", you wondered if this would be a lasting commitment or a short-term fling.
Civic Hall, Wolverhampton (01902 552121), tonight