Review: My Chemical Romance at the Pageant, Tuesday, December 14
Near the end of My Chemical Romance's very-sold-out show at the Pageant, the band took a break and left vocalist Gerard Way and touring keyboardist James Dewees alone on the stage. Way, sporting simple black pants, boots and a T-shirt, clasped the mic; his cartoonish, dyed-red-hair clung to his face and hid his eyes. Dewees started playing the simple, affecting piano chords of "Cancer." Way's voice - strong, confident and nearly Broadway-esque - reached the rafters of the venue as he sang the song, and quieted the crowd into near-silence.
Todd Owyoung Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance
Frankly, it was a stunning moment - and not something usually seen during a raucous rock show. But that's My Chemical Romance: always unpredictable, always willing to take risks and always unafraid to show its vulnerability. The first two traits especially stood out last night: The group made a Dylan song sound like the Sex Pistols crashing a piano recital (a fist-pumping cover of "Desolation Row"), indulged its inner Cure fan (the moody, gothic "The Ghost of You") and took cues from theatrical, Russian high-kick ditties (the macabre "Mama").
Still, MCR is first and foremost a formidable rock band. "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)," the first single from the new album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, was an adrenaline-shot of scuzz-garage with a glammed-up chorus. The song set the stage for an even more ballistic "Thank You For the Venom," which nodded to the band's hardcore punk and thrash roots. Guitarist Ray Toro had the chance to unfurl some gnarly solos on the Thin Lizzy-influenced horror-show "House of Wolves" (which also featured vocalist Way howling like a werewolf), while guitarist Frank Iero and bassist Mikey Way bookended him with their own slash-and-burn moves. Gerard Way commanded attention - throwing his arm in the air like a marching-band drum major, headbanging and stalking around the stage restlessly - but his charisma was never over-the-top or off-putting.
Todd Owyoung My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way
James Dewees held court (mostly) out of the spotlight, although he played a prominent musical role: Keyboards factored heavily in the band's new material, and so he was always in motion, manipulating sounds and textures. "Planetary (GO!)" was a bizarre hybrid of bombed-out disco and plastic synthpop, with hip-hop-cadenced vocals layered on top. (Despite the contradictions, the song totally works.) "Sing" was far creepier than its studio version: Eerie synths zoomed and streaked like space junk, calling to mind the dark electronica of '90s alt-rock footnotes Stabbing Westward and God Lives Underwater.