My Chemical Romance: Le Bikini, Toulouse 3 March 2011

Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance

Image by Neil Krug via Flickr

A long, chilly queue to get in, surrounded mostly by emo kids with chipped black nail varnish, which is always a bit worrying. This isn’t going to be kids’ stuff is it? Fortunately, there was also a fair number of serious rock fans over the legal age of consent.

The satisfaction of being able to say “I told you we needed to get here early” to my younger daughter and her boyfriend was mitigated by our being able to worm ourselves relatively close to the stage, in spite of our late arrival. We missed about half of the opening set by the oddly named Lost Alone, who seemed to be doing pretty well and merit checking out. Shame, as apart from one song being slightly off key, it was quite enjoyable metal music.

The dulcet tones of Dr DeathDefying intoning Look Alive, Sunshine played over the speakers as My Chemical Romance came on, opening with (what else?) Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) and The Crowd Went Wild. My god, fangirls everywhere!

Now, Le Bikini is a tiny venue and the stage is minuscule – there’s barely room for six musicians, let alone a light show or pyrotechnics – so unless the material is good and the performance up to scratch, the weaknesses in a band show very quickly.

To be brief: MCR were friggin’ brilliant. With their fourth album Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys out and receiving deserved critical acclaim, the band now has a big, really strong repertoire, and they used it. Gerard Way is an excellent, if hammy, frontman with apparently boundless energy; the rest of the band contribute to the spectacle, although with the aforesaid tiny stage there were a few worrying moments when musicians bumped into each other or, in the case of Ray Toro nearly beaned themselves on a microphone.

Obligatory fashion bitchery: Mikey Way looked a bit like that guy from A Flock Of Seagulls and whatever happened to Frank Iero’s lovely locks?

Apart from Helena and I’m Not OK (I Promise) plus one song from their first album (Vampires Will never Hurt You? I don’t know it at all well, mea culpa), there were about as many songs from the outstanding The Black Parade as the recent, less angsty and more poppy Danger Days.

The trouble with these two great albums is, basically, practically every one’s a winner, even though the styles are fairly different. I shall therefore proceed to bitch about the songs I love that didn’t get into the set: S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W, Party Poison, Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back, and This Is How I Disappear.

I was looking forward to at least one of them. Bugger.

However, how can anyone be sad after over an hour and a half of full-volume community singing (there were maybe ten people in the whole place who didn’t know most of the songs by heart, and I wasn’t one of them) led by four hot (and married, live with it) guys, when the show includes total stonkers like Mama, rock’n’roll singalongs like Teenagers – even more fun when sung at the top of your voice in unison with your own teenage kids – and pure dancefloor material like Planetary (GO!)?

The sound was great, the band were fantastic, the music sans reproche. OK, the ‘heart’ hand-gestures were really cheesy, but the heaving mass of black-clad teenage girls in front of the stage seemed to appreciate it. I suppose, until you’ve got the fanbase you deserve – possibly MCR’s goth-flavoured past still weighs against them, even if with Danger Days they’ve gone all out on bright primary colours – you make do with the fanbase you’ve got. Unsurprisingly for a band whose love of British rock is so obvious (check out those Queen-like sounds, for example), MCR seem to be more appreciated in the UK – as evidenced by their frequent success at the NME Shockwave awards  – than in their native USA.

An excellent band, both live and in the studio. Highly recommended. Please, Mr Way, can I have one of those awesome French flags with a desert spider on that you showed us? Please, please, pretty please?

  1. I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002)
  2. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)
  3. The Black Parade (2006)
  4. Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys [Explicit] (2010)

The last two are indispensable. Don’t be fooled by the cover artwork of The Black Parade, it’s nothing like as emo-pretentious as it looks and it rocks hard. There’s even Liza Minelli singing on Mama.

UPDATE 23 March 2011

Just posted: the new official video for Planetary (GO!) with meaty chunks of real live performance, even if the sound is off the album.

This does give a fair idea of the amount of concentrated fun a band like MCR can deliver in a small hall – although we had to provide our own subtitles.

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Go on, bother me. You know you want to.

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