Going to a My Chemical Romance show is a bit like stepping into another world–one composed of a frantic teenage pseudo-culture that begs to be studied and documented. Anyone over the age of 25 is bound to feel a bit like a sociologist stranded deep in the wilds of multicolored hair dye, oversized MCR merch, and small faces that reveal the eternal struggle between the need to look cool and disaffected and the natural urge to squeal and go apeshit.
MCR has always gotten a rap for being a band that panders to teens, and while they do, they also possess succinct songwriting talent with hints of metal scattered throughout–something that shines on their latest (and critically acclaimed) album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.
Yet their previous albums, particularly The Black Parade and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, have turned into a scapegoat for emo rock and gothic pop favored by mopey youngsters. Regardless, though, of what age most of their fanbase appears to be, there’s no denying how loyal and enthusiastic their audience is. And the band knows this, turning them into a well-oiled money making machine.
At the recent MCR show at Vancouver’s The Centre for Performing Arts, that band-fanbase connection was so strong that the audience had an effect on the band’s performance. For one thing, the venue was actually a poor choice since everyone was allocated into seats. Seats are not what you want at an MCR show, and magenta-hued frontman Gerard Way made several notes of this throughout the show (even saying they would be back in the summer to play again–and hopefully at a non-seated venue). At an MCR show, you want to “get up and go” as the frenzied third song they played (“Planetary Go” from Danger Days) suggests, and unfortunately the crowd just couldn’t cut loose.
This, in turn, affected Way’s performance–half the time he was engaged, but the other half he was rather lackluster. At the start of some songs he would get really into it, and then once noticing the crowd couldn’t really move, kind of gave up.
The venue wasn’t really built to handle a rock show anyway. The acoustics are better suited for the singer-songwriter crew, not a rock band (a fact made all too apparent by the venue’s mature ushers who were not equipped to deal with a rowdy, young crowd). As a result, the sound wasn’t quite as high caliber as it could have been. If you were seated at the far left, you could barely hear guitarist Ray Toro’s Brian May-ish solos. If you were at the far right, you couldn’t hear any keyboards.
Aside from the venue, the other downfall was the band’s use of vocals. Certain songs have a distinctive impact to them thanks in part to the layered use of vocals on the recordings. Done live, the songs lacked that added “something.” With “Sing,” Way wasn’t able to build up his voice and hit the high notes during the bridge, one of the best parts of the song, while on “Destroya” the backing vocals were lacking, which took away the song’s wonderful edge.
This, of course, is the critic in me speaking. The overall verdict is that they put on a fun, enjoyable show despite the setbacks–with hits such as “Vampire Money,” “I’m Not OK,” “Summertime,” “Teenagers,” and “Bulletproof Heart” being real standouts. In the end, My Chemical Romance plays to their fans and their fans were very happy–judging by the immense sing along they sprouted during every single song, the crowd participation (arms waving, copying Way’s every move), the couples holding hands and bonding over “their song,” how loudly they cheered after “Helena” (my earplugs would have come in handy), the elated faces as they flocked out of the theatre and lined up around the block to see if they could catch the band heading to their tour bus.
Actually, of all concerts I’ve covered, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd so devoted–so into it that, at times, I was wondering if this was the new Beatlemania. They may not be the legends that The Beatles are but if today’s teenagers are listening to My Chemical Romance instead of Justin Bieber, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
“Na Na Na”
“Thank You for the Venom”
“Hang ‘em High”
“The Only Hope for Me is You”
“House of wolves”
“I’m Not OK”
“Famous Last Words”
“The Black Parade”