On Friday night at the Field House, The All-American Rejects and Boys Like Girls teamed up for a reminder of pop-punk’s prowess with the first major show of the school year.
The doors opened at 7 p.m., but long before then ticket holders formed a line that stretched from the Field House to the bleachers on the opposite side of Morse Field, waiting for a dose of childhood sentimentality from AAR and a taste of the current state of pop-punk from Boys Like Girls.
Once fans were ushered into the Field House, many were surprised to see AAR singer Tyson Ritter hanging out by the merch tables. People lined up to meet him and he happily obliged, signing shirts and CDs and striking funny poses for photos with excited fans.
When opening act The Ready Set was set to take the stage, Ritter left, telling fans to watch them play. The group played an energetic 30-minute set, which included their biggest success, the 2010 single “Love Like Woe,” which reached No. 15 on the U.S. Mainstream Top 40 chart.
After The Ready Set was finished, it was unclear which group would go on next, since the concert was billed as having co-headliners. When the lights went dark and one of the figures on stage was recognizable as Ritter, some of the crowd was surprised to see AAR would be playing first — they were at the top of the musical world during their peak and when both bands toured together six years ago, it was Boys Like Girls opening for the former.
When AAR guitarist Nick Wheeler played the opening notes of “Dirty Little Secret,” the crowd exploded as their nostalgia meters went on overload. The group came out with tons of energy right out of the gate. Ritter was bouncing around the stage, belting out his recognizable lyrics along with the crowd and moving with a swagger you only get from touring as extensively as he and his band have.
After the song, Ritter addressed the crowd, “O-ron-o, Oreo, Orono!” He referred to the University of Maine as “Maine State University,” but he was quickly forgiven for the minor blunder.
Referring to a young girl near the front of the audience, he said, “I’m going to make you a woman right now,” and the group launched into another hit of theirs, “My Paper Heart.”
Between songs, Ritter said that he’s spent more time in Maine than he has in any other state. As dubious as that claim is, the crowd ate up the reference to their home state. He also said that when he was in the fourth grade, he wrote a book report on Maine, backing that up with some basic Maine facts, mentioning our potatoes, saying you “cannot get a better blueberry” than a Maine blueberry, and asking the crowd if they party with Stephen King.
For the most visually outstanding moment — and arguably, musically as well — of their set, the lights were turned down except for those outlining the guitars and keyboards and the lights attached to Ritter’s microphone, which he was swinging around as they played the title track from their newest album, “Kids in the Street,” which was akin to the spacey alternative rock of Angels and Airwaves, the side-project of Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge.
Ritter later gave a shout out to the security for the event, referring to them as “blueberry men” and “bluempaloompas,” praising the crowd’s conduct for making their jobs easier.
They then launched into a fiery rendition of “Mona Lisa (When The World Comes Down)” from their 2008 album, “When The World Comes Down.” In the buildup to the final chorus, Ritter localized the lyrics, singing, “We say, we do / The lies, the truth / And all I need is right here in f—ing Maine!”
Before playing “Heartbeat Slowing Down,” from their newest album, Ritter called the song the “most important song this band has ever done” and said it was the first unanimous favorite track of the band from an album. Referring to its personal subject matter, Ritter said the song is “my heart poured all over your godd—ed faces.”
To wrap up their well-received set, ARR performed their most recent hit, 2008’s “Gives You Hell.” During the song, a bra was thrown on stage, which Ritter hung on his mic stand. Later in the song, Ritter modified the lyrics to say, “You can take back your memories, they’re no good to me / You can keep throwing bras but that’s a f—ing STD!”
After their performance received uproarious applause, AAR left the stage, but not before Ritter addressed the crowd one last time, saying, “Goodnight, you people. You are so f—in’ filthy.”
In the downtime before Boys Like Girls’ set, some people who went solely to see AAR left, but a good crowd was still left by the time they took the stage.
AAR got the crowd riled up and made themselves a tough act to follow, but aside from a few non-detrimental audio issues early on, Boys Like Girls did a more-than-adequate job of owning the stage. Much like AAR, they came out with tons of energy from the start and got the crowd on their side.
Between songs, singer Martin Johnson took a cue from Ritter and was personable with the crowd. He fired the already-excited crowd up by saying he “heard something about Maine’s party school rank,” referring to UMaine’s spot at No. 19 on a list of the top party schools in the country published annually by The Princeton Review.
One of the highlights in their set was their 2009 single, “She’s Got a Boyfriend Now.” They extended the song by several minutes to make room for crowd interaction during a quieter section of the song. Johnson told the right side of the crowd that he liked the left side better and that they were louder, better looking and more cut. He gave the right side a chance to prove its value, which it did in his eyes as he changed his opinion. Every band member also played a solo, but when it was his turn, Johnson quickly said, “I kind of suck at guitar, I only know how to play punk rock” and started scatting instead.
The best way they involved the audience was before playing “Two is Better Than One,” which features Taylor Swift on the album version. Johnson asked if there were any female singers in the crowd who knew the lyrics that Swift originally sang, saying he would pull one of them on stage to sing the song with the band. After a few girls were unsuccessful in their attempts, Shannon Clark was chosen to sing with the band.
For their finale, Boys Like Girls played one of their biggest hits, “Love Drunk.” About a minute into the song, Johnson stopped the band and made a quick speech, asking the crowd to put away all cell phones and cameras for a “technology-free three minutes.” He added that there are “probably a thousand” YouTube videos of them playing the song and the audience should enjoy the moment as it’s happening.
When they were finished, Johnson followed through with a promise he made earlier in the evening and continued his fantastic relationship with the audience by posing for pictures with them.
Crowd interaction was a prevalent theme throughout the night. Although both groups were at the top of their game musically, the personal things, like Ritter chatting and hanging out with fans before the show and Boys Like Girls literally making the audience part of the performance, are what make the bands more accessible and are what people will remember most.
According to Jon Allen, Vice President of Student Entertainment, 1,027 tickets were sold and about 820 people attended the concert.
“I think it went well,” Allen said. “It was a good concert.” Allen said that although there weren’t as many people there as past concerts on campus, “the people that were there had a blast.”CORRECTION:
A previous version of this article had the fan who sung with Boys Like Girls' name as Shannon Swift. Her name is Shannon Clark.