It's easy to hate on PATRICK STUMP. We speak from experience here, having been subjected not only to years of FALL OUT BOY but also because we accidentally caught his first solo gig ever at SXSW last year, where he insisted on playing all the instruments at the same time and . . . bombed.
This time around, we're awarding points for effort, variety, and swell behavior. It's kind of difficult to accuse someone of pandering to his audience when, as Stump did for both shows, he sends his band out ahead of him to jam on Coltrane's "Giant Steps" to warm up the crowd. It's no secret that Stump is steering away from emo and attempting to marshall his voice in the direction of soul and funk, and even on an off night for his vocal cords, a few of the songs weren't half bad. The band's kinda interesting, and the rhythm section is tight: he's got former Taking Back Sunday bassist -- and Berklee alum -- Matt Rubano and well-regarded session drummer Skoota Warner, who has played in both the house band at the Apollo and the house band at . . . Emeril Lagasse's TV show. More to the point, Stump's new songs make it sound like he's been listening to a lot of '80s Prince -- he's covering the Prince-penned, Sinead-immortalized "Nothing Compares 2 U" -- although in practice the band ends up sounding a little more like Morris Day & The Time.
It's a good bet this'll get a lot better before this is unveiled to the masses. For now they seem content to woodshed the arrangements and play with covers: for the encore, he trotted out the hook -- and verses! -- to Gym Class Heroes' "Cupid's Chokehold" and spun through Kanye's "All of the Lights." Not quite a Grammy medley, but not bad.
Also, and there's no way of getting around this: by the accounts of everyone who ran into him, Patrick Stump is kind of a sweet dude. It's one thing to big-up the local opening band on Twitter; it's another to meet them at the door to the club, profess your undying affection for their music, and repeatedly shout them out from the stage. Mystery Roar: #winning. Worth noting in fan-relations department: Stump stuck around both nights after the gig until every hand was shook.