Fall Out Boy may be "on hiatus," but onstage Thursday night at Chicago's Hard Rock Hotel, Pete Wentz -- now of Black Cards -- remained unmistakably Pete Wentz. That is, he talked at great length between songs, even admitting before the closer of his band's quick six-song set celebrating the grand reopening of his Angels & Kings bar: "I have a bad reputation for talking over lead singers."
But the hometown crowd packed into the cavernous room wouldn't have had it any other way. Even newcomer Bebe Rexha, Black Cards' singer, seemed to know to hold back and let Wentz do his thing. At this early stage in the group's career, Black Cards is unmistakably the New Pete Wentz Project, though the comely Rexha's Gwen Stefani howl and confident strut ensured that many eyes stayed on her, too.
Last June, Wentz announced Black Cards via a link on his blog, which sent readers to bl4ckc4rds.com to hear a snippet of a song that veered into previously unexplored dance-pop territory. It was a bit misleading; Thursday night, the band incorporated far more dub and reggae influences than that suggested.
From the set's second song ("Breakfast With Tiffany") on, guitarist Nate Patterson seemed to do more up-picking than anything. Fans in attendance knew better than to expect anything resembling Fall Out Boy, but they may not have expected something that would fit so neatly on a mixtape next to No Doubt.
Wentz' Fall Out Boy colleagues have similarly broken from that band's template, with drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman opting for a more metallic sound in The Damned Things and singer-guitarist Patrick Stump indulging his more soulful side as a solo artist. But none of those projects skews as radio- (and club-) ready as Black Cards, particularly on "Club Called Heaven" (featuring Chiddy) and "Dominos."
Nearly six years have passed since "Sugar We're Goin' Down" put his old band on the map, but it felt like a lifetime ago Thursday night. Decked out in a black leather coat, torn jeans, black football paint under his eyes, and a massive furry wolf hat that wrapped around his ears and under his chin, Wentz had all of his old habits and mannerisms, but had changed his musical approach.
"I really didn't think I'd be on stage again," Wentz said after Black Cards opened with "Beating In My Chest." He was clearly elated to be back home and showing off a project too new to have any baggage. "This band is specifically designed for you to have a good time."
It certainly seems to be.
The group closed out the show as it usually does, segueing from Cher/Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" into "Club Called Heaven," which features Rexha singing, "And we're dancing, and we're dancing around / In a club called heaven." Never mind the crowd -- Black Cards seem specifically designed for Pete Wentz to have a good time.
"Beating My Chest"
"Breakfast With Tiffany"
"Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Fame"
"Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)"/"Club Called Heaven"