All Time Low is a fairytale band, one that flaunts an impenitent Neverland quality — the boys who never grew up. The peppy four-piece formed in a Baltimore suburb in 2003 when the members were all high school teenagers, and rocketed to success in the sweaty, dusty gauntlet of the Vans Warped Tour. In line with Peter Pan, the four musicians — now nearly 30 years old — performed at the Fox Theater on Saturday night with the swagger of a 15-year-old.
Instead of transitioning their music to cater to their first big audience that has since grown up from the crop of mid-teens that it was in the early 2000s, drummer Rian Dawson, bassist Zack Merrick, and guitarists and vocalists Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat have stuck to the sound and attitude of their initial bops in their latest album release, Last Young Renegade.
Along with this remarkable sonic consistency, they also presented a frivolous, incoherent thread of banter representative of a youthful teen band. Wedged into a whirlwind setlist and around a luminous, rainbow stage show was a collection of quips and gestures that appeared far off-script for such an experienced group. The only canned banter of the night — “How are you feeling tonight, Oakland?” — came directly after the show’s opening song: “Last Young Renegade,” performed with all the excessive guitar showmanship, spunk and enthusiasm that could be expected from the group.
Following that, goofy levity and disorganization dominated conversations that ranged from a debate and vote on the merits of chunky peanut butter versus smooth peanut butter to a description of Barakat’s mother’s qualms with his dyed hair streak — “You’re not my mom anymore, mom!” — to a search for bats living in the gilded rafters of the Fox. More bizarre interludes included a three-minute group nap and a dancing inflated dinosaur costume that accompanied audience members onstage for the pulsing performance of “Time-Bomb,” with its dominant driving kick drum line, fuzzy bass guitar, and typical teen punk lyrical sentiments.
The audience was wholly enamored with the boyish charm of the 29-year-olds — girls threw bras up on stage to have them collected by Barakat and hung off his mic stand. Others threw handfuls of glow sticks to their concert peers, held up pride flags, danced in mosh pits and supported waves of crowd surfers. Every song was a rousing group sing along, melding the setlist into a two-hour stretch of enthused hand-clapping, fist-pumping and smartphone Snapchat recordings.
It was a perfect match between performers and audience members — something that isn’t always true of a live show. There is not often such an overwhelmingly ubiquity in a crowd’s positive responses to every cracked joke and every song’s intro guitar riff, which can only speak positively to All Time Low and the youthful, inclusive identity it’s created for itself, no matter that the group comes across as remarkably carefree, given its 14 years of touring.
After an encore featuring the band’s most popular tune “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” Gaskarth threw red roses — petals exploding everywhere — into the lunging crowd. It was a rather absurd, out-of-the-blue gesture that is just another instance of how all over the map the band is, but it only emphasized how much that was appreciated by the audience — All Time Low can make just about anything work under the blanket of its forced eternal youth.
Olivia Jerram covers music. Contact her at [email protected].