My Chemical Romance

support Drive By + Every Time I Die
author PP date 03/11/05 venue Brixton Academy, London, UK

Did you think My Chemical Romance are big? Because if you did, think again, as the band is far, far bigger than the word "big" can possibly describe. Following the band's outbreak to MTV's airplay charts, their fanbase has exploded into the millions. It's partly because Gerard Way is such a charismatic frontman, and partly because their last album "Three Cheers For A Sweet Revenge" was one of the best albums released in 2004. The line to the sold out, 5,500 capacity Brixton Academy twenty minutes after doors opened was still going around the entire Academy, and continued far down the next street. Thank god for a separate Box Office queue, for otherwise I would have had no chance of catching Every Time I Die, let alone the opening act Drive By. If you happened to read my recent live review of Alexisonfire, you know how much I bitched about scene kids. Today, I was expecting to see them come to the show in their thousands, but instead I witnessed a crowd of diversity never seen before; some entire families, some in their mid twenties, some middle school students and everything you could possibly imagine other than old people. There were people wearing shirts by bands as distant from each other as possible, starting from In Flames and Metallica, going through Mot?rhead and Ramones, followed by Tool and The Mars Volta, ending up in Fall Out Boy and The Used. Why is it that when a band looks normal like Alexisonfire, the crowd is full of scene kids, but when a band actually dresses scene, like My Chemical Romance, the scene kids are nowhere near to be seen. Perhaps the band is too popular for them to like, but what the hell, My Chemical Romance is one of the few mainstream bands that still make awesome music, though that's about to change soon (more on that later).

I caught about half of Drive-Bys set, but it was too little to determine what the band was really about. One song they were stadium rock, next post-hardcore followed by an acoustic, emo-piece in the veins of Something Corporate and Dashboard Confessional, so I'm just gonna leave them out of the review. Though I must note that Gerard Way, while demanding applauses for the band during the My Chemical Romance set, added that Drive By was one of his favorite bands, something which he didn't say about the New York hardcore quintet Every Time I Die.

Every Time I Die

Tonight's crowd was one of the best, most enthusiastic crowds I've ever been a part of. As soon as Every Time I Die's banner was revealed, loud applauses and high pitched girl screams followed. And when the band finally took the stage, the applauses just got louder and louder. However, when the played songs like "Bored Stiff" and "Apocalypse Now And Then", it became obvious that a very small minority of the crowd actually knew the band at all, and those few people were the ones responsible for two mosh pits near the centre of the standing area. But this didn't seem to bother the band, and their formally dressed frontman Keith took advantage of both the stage and the barriers when delivering his hardcore vocals. The rest of the band was dressed casually in mere t-shirts, making Keith stand out and be subject to the worship of all female fans at the front, specially when he jumped down from stage, went to the barrier and screamed within the crowd, like most hardcore vocalists seem to like to do. Afterwards, he made a humouristic remark of "If this wasn't a concert, I'd sue you all for sexual harrassement". But no matter how intensely the guitarists/bassist played, no matter how hard the drumming was, and no matter how brilliant Keith's elegant hardcore vocal delivery was, Every Time I Die's set was rather wasted on a My Chemical Romance crowd.

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My Chemical Romance

What I expected from My Chemical Romance isn't relevant. What anyone seeing them the first time expected is irrelevant. This is all simply because already the stage-design of the band was the most unique one I've ever witnessed. If I were the drummer, I'd be in constant fear of heights as the drumset was elevated several meters above the rest of the stage. On both sides of him, the band had set up huge structures (see gallery) resembling the domes in Vatican City, which worked as motion picture screens. The screens had still images, moving pictures and movies of pretty much everything you can imagine: At one moment it would have flames, next moment a religious mosaic strucutre, followed by a frozen picture, a black and white movie of soldiers marching during The Great War, a shadow of a guy bungee jumping, or just random colourful shapes.

What started out as a great concert was about to turn into a tragedy already during the secong song "Cemetary Drive". The people worshipping the band kept pushing forwards and forwards and forwards, squeezing people against the barriers, and when the soft introduction finished and people started jumping up and down, all hell went lose. Half of the people were moshing, half of them were jumping up and down, and people were falling down in the masses. It was horrifying to watch from the back end of the gigantic room when literally every single member of security was standing against the barrier trying desperately to pull people out from the inferno. Half way through the song, Gerard shouted "STOP" and everything stopped. The band stopped playing, the lightshow was paused and the crowd singing along was confused over what was going on. Gerard then proceeded to shout "Okay guys we're all here to have fun but we need you guys to push back. I'm gonna count to four, and everyone take two steps backwards. One-two-three-four PUSH. That's good. Again! One-two-three-four PUSH BACK!". At this moment I was expecting the worst, especially when I saw people being pulled out from the floors over the barriers in the dozens and dozens. Fortunately enough, nobody got hurt, and My Chemical Romance continued pretty much exactly from where they left off and finished "Cemetary Drive".

And if the above isn't enough to convey you that the crowd was one of the most enthusiastic yet to be seen, read on, because there's more. Every single song was sang so loud that Gerard's vocals were pretty much useless tonight. But even without the crowd, his vocals weren't at their best. His voice was missing that special sharp, slightly soared edge we hear on the album versions of songs like "Give 'Em Hell Kid" and "It's Not A Fashion Statement, Its A Fucking Deathwish". The energy just wasn't there tonight, and I think he was saving it for the next days' repeat show at the same venue. He did try to save it by saying "Everyone always says that first shows at a venue you play twice are lame, but not tonight. Tonight is going to be awesome", but while most of the crowd seemed convinced, I wasn't quite so sure of that. The live versions of the afore mentioned songs were rad, and I was seriously wondering whether or not the floor was slightly bouncy, because the entire room seemed to be jumping up and down as if they were on a trampoline, all the way from the very front to the bars at the back. The amazing level of crowd participation didn't go unnoticed, and especially "Helena" was sang so loudly and perfectly, that it beat the album version by ten times to say the least. By the time the setlist reached "The Ghost Of You", the entire hall was lit up from lighters, mobile phones and everything the crowd could grab their hands onto. Usually, live albums of bands aren't really worth much, but I seriously hope that the band just didn't want to reveal they're recording a live album at tonight's show, because the sound combined with the crowd and the chat in between songs was all like taken from a dream-live album. If the band will announce a live album in the near future which was recorded at this Brixton show, I know at least one record collection it'll be making its way into.

Its good to see that even though the band has gone mainstream, and their show was commercial and very Green Day-ish with the confetti after the encore, and a lot of crowd control such as the "hey hey hey"'s, the modest and always so sincere band is still there. Despite all the big structures on stage, the band rocked the stage as if it was their first gig where they have to prove they're passionate live, and unlike all the big bands I know, the band actually talked directly to some of the crowd members in the front. You could see Gerard exchanging a few words every now and then with the girls on the front row (more like the front 10 rows, which is why I didn't even attempt to get close enough for good quality photos), which is incredibly rare with bands this size, and that made a lasting effect on me. This isn't a band just about the money, it's about the music and the fans. Unfortunately, the "new" song they played today was a complete rip off of John Lennon & Yoko Ono's classic "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)". It was even possible to hear the crowd singing along to the John Lennon song instead of the unknown MCR song. This is where most of you will think "ahha! They covered it" but this is not the case. The instruments and lyrics were entirely different from the classic, but the song structure was 100% identical. I hope I'm just hearing wrong or that this is their special way of covering songs, because otherwise I can see a lawsuit coming towards Gerard and co.

So all this being said, why isn't the gig receiving a tenner, or even a niner? Many of the people at this gig seeing the grade will disagree with me, but do remember that I've seen close to 60 gigs in the last year and a half, so I have means of comparison. There was absolutely nothing wrong with today's gig, except Gerard's vocals, but the overall performance fell down a bit towards the last few songs before the encore. I found myself yawning a bit and sort of waiting for the encore to come soon. It was a really good gig, but you can't compare it to Beecher (9) or Fastlane (10) by any means.

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