Fall Out Boy: Hammerstein Ballroom, New York; Tuesday January 16

Wentz and Stump begin their latest drive towards global supremacy under the gaze of Jay-Z and their army of devotees

A cross in the electronic ether, the war on emo is still raging. Music messageboards bulge with people calling themselves things like Serge Pizzorno’s Moustache complaining about whiny rich-kids. Chatrooms are filled with snobby post-rock devotees bitching about fringes or eyeliner. And over at NME we can barely print the name of Panic! At The Disco without being inundated with plutonium letter bombs. It’s all academic for Fall Out Boy though because these chaps from Chicago left the frontline of cross-scene sniping ages ago. Now they’re on the verge of becoming the biggest thing in mainstream punk-pop since Green Day pulled off their Christ-like resurrection with ‘American Idiot’. The fact that Jay-Z is rocking out on the balcony tonight proves the point because, unless we’re sorely mistaken, the Jigga isn’t an angst-ridden suburbanite who can’t figure out how to undo a bra, no, he’s just a playa watching other playas work.

With a nod to the heights at which their ambitions extend, the quartet raid the stage to Bon Jovi’s stadium-rock classic ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and as soon as Patrick Stump hits his first chord, the venue shakes with excitement. The singer/guitarist isn’t much of a talker, but when you can deliver ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’ and the pre-fame fan favourite ‘Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today’ as flawlessly as he does, it doesn’t matter that he’s got all the charm and wit of a rotten lettuce. Last year’s ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ may have signalled Fall Out Boy hitting the big time, but new album ‘Infinity On High’’s pop-punk makes it sound like an Albanian electro-folk record in comparison. ‘Infinity…’ is undoubtedly set to be the lifeblood of every Top 10 chart across the globe for the next 18 months. Indicative of that is ‘Thriller’ which is dryly introduced by photogenic bassist and Geppetto-ish puppet master Pete Wentz as a song about how the internet is only good for “getting directions to places and looking at pornography”. Never mind Wentz’s apparent sexual and, er, geographic frustration though, the song’s Weezer-ish harmonies are so insanely catchy that after just one listen, only major brain surgery will dislodge the tune from your head. However, even the most frontal lobe-shattering procedure would be unlikely to shift new single ‘This Ain’t A Scene It’s An Arms Race’ from the Earth’s collective grey-matter. As Wentz leads the crowd into singing, “IT’S A GOD! DAMN! ARMS! RACE!” in unison, it’s obvious that Fall Out Boy are now building a sonic arsenal that will be filling enormo-domes by the time the year is out.

Throwing himself into the crowd during the finale of ‘Dance, Dance’, every hand reaches for Wentz as if he has the power to heal the sick (or at least cheer the miserable). It’s like a scene from The Bible – but with better songs. On this killer form, with this fanatical following and this armoury of new songs, Fall Out Boy could win the war on emo, the war on drugs and even the bleedin’ war on terror if they wanted to. As it stands, you’ll never beat ’em, so perhaps you should join ’em.

Hardeep Phull