My Chemical Romance (support: Thursday)
Wembley Arena, London on 30th March 2007
Reviewed by Helen on 31st March 2007
It's 4pm on a rainy afternoon, and I'm waiting outside the back gates of Wembley Arena for John Harris, the Tour Manager for the completely sold out Black Parade Tour. No, I wasn't excited, but then I'm not much of a fan of emo. I'd forgotten how much pissed off Americans swear, but then I had completely weaseled my way in by two parts charm to one part deception.
Sitting on each others' laps. Rawk.
So, to the action: I was there to interview Thursday, and they were nice blokes. However, that's Killer Dienamite Magazine's dubious exclusive - you guys are getting a better one. The non-shock-horror news: My Chemical Romance are, in my humble opinion, sulky little shits. Apart from the lead guitarist, Ray, who's a total angel, and plays like some kind of rawk demon. I accidentally found their canteen, and hung around for a drink while they talked about... well, stuff, actually. Not very interesting stuff. They talked about what the previous night's gig was like (crazy fans, just everywhere, you know, fucking amazing, yeah) and how they wanted more yoghurt (this British shit's just fucking weird, yeah). So, total sum of the whole: they're just people. Yes, normal people. They even hauled their own water around stage. And no groupies - I was the only hanger-on there.
What's it like backstage at Wembley? I don't think I've ever seen such an amazing sound system. The sound engineer, Ivan, said it took five hours to put it all up and another three to take it down again - and they take everything with them. Speaker stacks, lighting, everything. Five trucks' worth. Watching them finish setting up was great, but what was even more fantastic was watching the bands warm up and do sound tests was better.
The thing is, when you get to watch a band do sound tests you see them at both their best and their worst. You get to see the tantrums, the nerves, the way they treat their crew, the kind of lame jokes they make. Yeah, MCR were definitely sulky little shits, but I was quite surprised by Thursday. Nice guys.
So, anyway, I left the fall-out zone (where all the crushed and unconscious fans are given medical treatment after being pulled out of the front line) and awaited the rush in the reserved seating, as hundreds of pouting eyelinered-adolescents ran screaming into the stadium. I watched them being made to sit, backs to the stage, until a scream went up and a mexican wave of middle-class teens surged to the front. Indeed, the sound guy had gone to make last-minute checks. They all creamed themselves. It was going to get nasty.
I wasn't looking forward to seeing Thursday live, because they're really not my thing. However, despite the crapness of pretty much all of their albums, they were in fact rather good. It got to the point where I felt that perhaps some kind of mishap (or bad mixing) had gone on in their studio. There was more melody, more depth to their set than I'd ever have expected.
From the moment the first impenetrable chord sank down onto the crowd from the speakers right to the final beseeching request for us to Party Like It's 1999 (when most of their audience would've been about 8-9) Thursday maintained a good, solid set and an energetic on-stage presence. I think the best bit was when Geoff, the lead singer, swung his microphone around by the lead and hit himself in the head. Despite this, they were almost mesmerising to watch.
Despite them being better than expected, there was a degree of mindless screaming and unrecognisable singing, but perhaps that's me getting old. However, Thursday essentially knew why they were there: to wind up the crowd, to namecheck MCR as much as possible, and to make a huge amount of noise. White noise.
I suppose it was a mixed bag, really. At times, the synths added a psychedelic '70s type edge, and good vocal stylings added depth and needed harmony. However, they weren't entirely in tune all of the time, and some tracks merely induced a wild and yet expressionless jerky head-nodding in the crowd that was reminiscent of something one might have seen on the back shelf of a Morris Minor back in the days of fluffy dice and knitted steering-wheel covers.
Ugliest moment of whole gig: "We're from New Jersey - have any of you been to New Jersey?" ::mindless universal screaming from crowd:: "It's a dirty fucking cesspool, and I think that's why it makes great bands like My Chemical Romance - " ::huge amounts of screaming:: " - just like London, right?"
My Chemical Romance
By the time My Chemical Romance came on, the assorted hoi-polloi had universally failed to recognise classic (piped) tracks by the Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Pulp, and Iron Maiden. However, this is a general malaise that seems to be universal. They did recognise Greenday's Basketcase, which is good because if they hadn't I would have had to leave. Also, several dozen had been crushed against the railings, like sweet but sweaty pink-faced little lemmings.
World record broken for most emos in one building ever
When My Chemical Romance at last came on, they were greeted by a roar that dwarfed their immense sound system. Unconscious girls were being hauled out the the crowd and marched to the first aid area in droves, which seemed appropriate as we, the lucky ones in the side stalls, watched the side-curtain go up to let lead singer Gerard Way be wheeled onto stage on a flashing hospital trolley, complete with drip, hospital robes, painted white face and trailing microphone lead.
Up he leapt, ripping off this gown to reveal the trademark frogged black and white pseudo-soldier gear (which, by the way, made him look like a toad - in fact, none of them really pulled it off tbh). Up the curtain went, revealing revolving stage with two drum kits on it.
I'm not going to run through this track-by-track, since honestly they all sort of merged into one big cacophony of craziness. What I will say is that's Way's voice is becoming a little classic-rock - you know that edge that Ozzy has, the Kiss / Led Zep sort of metal twang. It verged on annoying at times. Anyway, the songs were punctuated by light, staccato-style drumming, AMAZING guitar solos from Ray Toro, and random explosions of little bits of black and white paper and balls of flame. The latter were so huge that you could feel the heat on your cheeks from the stands, and I really felt for the band.
They were, at times, a little boyband, revealing what life would be like if Take That had been given guitars and free range in Camden Market. If their audience had been allowed lighters, they would have waved them. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - the hooks were devastating, and the performance, however fake, gimmicky and theatrical, was good. These guys are teenage heartthrobs - they knew this, and they played their role very convincingly. The audience jumped and pulsated like a jar of energetic maggots, and the clichés came hard and fast.
Overall, a good gig, and not wholly melodically redundant. Good value-for-money on the whole. Considering I didn't actually have to buy any tickets, and got free yoghurt.
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