My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way, adorned with bright red locks above his signature shocking eyes, celebrated his 34th birthday in Denver on Saturday night, along with a sold out crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium. While the party, itself, was plenty of fun, the musical accompaniment left a bit to be desired, and showed that his band appears to be stylistically lost.
While Way and brother Mikey sported more than enough enthusiasm behind their long set, the music fell short of what their third album, the multi-platinum opus, “The Black Parade” promised. The fodder for this set came mostly from last year’s “Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys,” and showed a melodic departure from the pop-punk of their early life, though not so much in Way’s signature emo-soaked goth lyrics.
Where their earlier sound seemed to be a logical step forward from the influence of pop-punk greats Green Day, the newer material seemed to harken back to early ’90s grunge and post-grunge. Only this performance magnified the less attractive, aimless melodies and whining of those genres rather than their inherent nihilism and defiant energy.
The set started out promisingly with the new album’s opener, “Na Na Na” (definitely a comic book superhero theme song if ever they’ve made one), and the energy in the venue immediately spiked. Sadly, though, through sludgy anthems like “Planetary (GO!),” “Sing” and “The Only Hope for Me is You” they swerved wildly between influences of bands like Pearl Jam or Judas Priest, and often mixed them with varying results — all bad.
The apex of the band’s apparent befuddlement in musical direction could be seen in their performance of “Summertime,” which sounded like Journey trying to emulate latter Smashing Pumpkins, with an added dusting of the Cure’s noodling poppiness. The result was stomach-turning, rather than the presumed attempt at a happy love anthem.
There were a few great moments, though they were few and far between. Their cover of the Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” was respectfully done, as was “Mama.” The only time the energy in the Fillmore returned anywhere close to where it was at the show’s start, tragically, was when the touring keyboardist played the familiar notes at the start of their mega-hit, “Welcome to the Black Parade.” The performance of the veritable emo anthem seemed to exonerate them for their earlier transgressions, albeit maybe a song or three too late.
Quoleena Sbrocca is a Denver photographer and new contributor to Reverb. Visit her website here.