Patrick Stump's SXSW debut as a solo artist: a Fallout Boy untethered
Critically watching Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump play his first solo show at the small, smelly, not-quite jampacked Dirty Dog in Austin during South By Southwest was somewhat of a tricky proposition.
Can he be judged against the output of his arena-sized band, known for massive guitar-rock punk numbers and a cartoonish bassist who's a tabloid fixture? Or should he be seen on his own terms, as a new artist trying, like thousands of others, to use SXSW as a chance to break through?
There were certainly arguments for both; after all, Stump doesn't even look the same. Once famously, shyly pudgy, he's probably lost about 50 pounds since he was last seen on a stage, a now-svelte figure trying to find his way around his new body as the inner Chunk looks out.
Musically, it's clear that he's busy finding his own path as well. Gone are the distorted breakdowns and monster riffs, replaced by discotheque back beats and jazz-funk synths. Stump served as a one-man band for the five-song entirety of the show, on a couple of cuts looping instruments like Jon Brion's fumbling lab assistant, a task that tech problems (rather than instrumental prowess) revealed he wasn't quite up to.
On others, it was just the man, a guitar or keyboard, and a backing track, with Stump finding a groove and a surprisingly dynamic wail -- the pop-soul sound of someone who's never even heard of the Buzzcocks, let alone owns all their 45s.It's not as huge a stretch as it sounds. After all, Fall Out Boy has collaborated with hip-hoppers, and Stump's on record as saying that he feels the roots of soul, rather than rock, as his inspiration. But tell that to the fan-girls waiting in earnest for an acoustic run-through of "Sugar, We're Going Down," or the music-biz hordes wondering how the hell this mainstream rocker even learned to play a Gm7 chord. For an arena-rock superstar, it was indulgent, to be sure. But for a brand-new artist, it was undoubtedly promising, as well.
-- Jeff Miller
Photo: Patrick Stump. Credit: Jeff Miller