The recent announcement that one-time spokespeople for the Emo generation My Chemical Romance were calling it a day brought many shades of eyeliner smudged tears to a lot of people I know. Quite why I’ll probably never understand… but in an effort to explain why I won’t be weeping, here’s an MCR live review I wrote for The Independent back in 2007.
My Chemical Romance, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Weds, 14 November 2007
A little more than a year ago, My Chemical Romance hoodwinked a capacity crowd at London’s Hammersmith Palais into believing that they had cancelled. In their place, a band called The Black Parade were to perform. Little by little, however, a hostile crowd recognised the true identities of the band on stage. From the second song, the New Jersey rockers had 1,800 punters eating out of their hands.
No such playful humour was on show tonight, however. Instead, fans witnessed a display of petulant goading and showboating pyrotechnics. The petulance is a sign of the predicament the band now find themselves in. Like many acts that have emerged from the underground, only to be embraced by the mainstream, they find the need to make petty challenges to the system to underline their punk-rock “authenticity”.
Yet MCR – pitched somewhere between Foo Fighters and Sum 41 – are as mainstream as alternative rock gets. Their songs move between the punk-by-numbers of “House of Wolves” and the grandiose stadium posturing of their biggest hit to date, “Welcome to the Black Parade”, met here with the raising of a sea of cameraphones.
The band’s rebellious edge comes largely from their singer, Gerard Way, a man who spent much of this gig berating the audience for not being loud enough or feigning a lack of interest in whether or not they were enjoying themselves – all this while launching into crowd-pleasing oldies such as the raunchy “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”.
But for all of Way’s sneering belligerence, his showmanship most resembles Freddie Mercury’s fist-in-the-air, call-and-response style. Way is a great but traditional frontman who inadvertently gives the band deep roots in the Establishment.
It is for this reason that MCR have been embraced by teenagers. Their rebellion is not unlike a Topshop street-style fashion line – safe, affordable and weird enough to make the wearer feel individual. The songs resonate because of their burdensome emotionalism. Songs such as “This is How I Disappear” embrace teen angst in a flurry of over-emotional pomp.
On songs such as the reggae-tinged, carnivalesque “Mama”, however, MCR seem able to move beyond this. Yet despite such moments of flair, their repertoire, like bad teenage poetry, continually brings you down to earth with a mournful bump.