My Chemical Romance @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (27/1/12)
With the glory days of emo well and truly behind us, My Chemical Romance’s Big Day Out sideshow posed the question – who still listena to My Chem these days? While my inner 16 year old rejoiced, it was interesting to see the crowd somewhat less dominated by the black-clad teenagers from past years. There was a healthy mixture of both young and old in the queue, which managed to stretch all the way out to the main road. I even saw a middle-aged man with tattoos from the album art of The Black Parade all up his arm.
People were still filling in as sole support act Closure In Moscow began their set around 8pm. Being relatively quiet since their 2009 debut First Temple, the boys from Melbourne (now based in the US) had a chance to try out some new material on a mostly unfamiliar audience on home soil. Closure’s complex rhythmic arrangements were impressive and their unique brand of progressive post-hardcore is rare in Australian music. Equally as impressive were lead singer Chris de Cinque’s vocal acrobatics. While he didn’t get the “motion in the ocean” of the audience he was asking for, the crowd did cheer whenever he hit his trademark high notes. And despite the crowd clearly being there for MCR, they managed to get a few “oh yeahs!” out of us.
Their new material featuring jam sessions and improvised/surrealistic lyrics (“She’s just like a penguin in bondage boy”) hinted at The Mars Volta-esque theatrics while fan favourites Vanguard and A Night At The Spleen showed that Closure can still rock a stage with sufficient swagger despite recent line-up changes. This set confirmed that we should be awaiting their new album eagerly.
My Chemical Romance came out to little fanfare but the excitement was palpable. Instant singalong Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) saw the crowd bounce around like the A.D.D.-riddled choir of imbeciles the song was crafted for. This was followed by nostalgic hit Thank You For The Venom . and an instant dance party in the form of Planetary (GO!) from 2011’s Danger Days, in which balloons filled with glitter and confetti were unleashed. Three songs into their set, and the bar for the night was set very, very high.
Rather than adopting the post-apocalyptic, hyperkinetic technicolour look of their_Dangerous Days_ press shots the band was dressed normally and without any airs about them. And so we were led down memory lane as MCR played more as a rock band and less as a stage show. Gerard Way expressed his concern for us to “pick each other up” off the floor and we learned of his love for orange juice, while lead guitarist Ray Toro thanked an eager fan for their heartfelt letter.
The tone of the music is noticeably different between each of MCR’s albums – the older the album, the darker the sound – but they did well to cater to all needs. In terms of anthemic moments, it’s difficult to get much more epic than Welcome To The Black Parade, Helena or I’m Not Okay.
All it took was the single opening piano note of Welcome To The Black Parade to register a bone-shaking roar from the crowd, which quickly transformed into united fist-pumping and foot-stomping. I thought it couldn’t get any better, but they somehow managed to top this during encore-closer Famous Last Words. I had totally forgotten of this song’s existence but it was an awe-inspiring finisher. The girl next to me had tears streaming down her face and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a lump in my throat too at that point.
Other highlights included Teenagers, their back-to-back Vampire duplet (2002’s Vampires Will Never Hurt You and 2011’s Vampire Money) and the cabaret-soaked waltz of Mama. You get a certain kind of chill when singing the lyrics “We all go to hell” with thousands of others in such a setting. However, the heavy was skilfully offset by the light in newer songs like Summertime, The Only Hope For Me Is You, and set closer (pre-encore) Cancer.
The progression that MCR has undergone through the years – from underground New Jersey punk kids to global commanders-in-chief of the so-called Black Parade – has been a fascinating one to follow. They have been a working band for more than a decade now and it was great to see them take charge of their music and their stage stripped of all the theatrics of the past in this concert.
So can MCR play a solid, entertaining show of music and hold an audience that have all but grown out of their skinny black jeans and thick-as-cake face make-up? The answer is a resounding yes. The Kids From Yesterday have indeed grown up, but they are unafraid to still have some raucous fun with their songs of yesterday.
As a postscript, it is worth noting that the Glee-friendly, radio hit Sing did not make an appearance in the set.