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Apr 4, 2011

Hazardous materials: My Chemical Romance visit Vancouver

The essential problem with My Chemical Romance, if the endless bile spewed in their direction on any of a million web pages is any indication, is that they are not heavy metal. Or punk. Or emo. Whatever the preference of the individual internet critic (and there appears to be a bountiful supply of them), My Chemical Romance's failure to conform to the accepted norms of whatever genre they're accused of ripping off/hijacking/destroying has painted targets on their backs since 2006's The Black Parade launched them into the rock stratosphere.
A lot of people hate 'em. A lot of people love 'em too, including the 1,800 folks crammed into The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts last night to see the most divisive band of their generation. Most of these people, not incidentally to our story, were both very young and very female. The prototypical Vancouver concertgoer, male, be-toqued and bearded, was notable only by his absence.
This presented a problem for The Centre's security personnel, who spent much of the night shooing very petite girls rushing towards the stage back to their allotted seats in the cavernous theatre.
It also presents a problem for the 30-something male music writer (a demographic which your correspondent tragically falls into). Gerard Way is a charismatic front man. The songs are catchy. The performance is strong. And yet, it's painfully obvious throughout that this is not a band for everyone. And it's not for me.
That's not to diminish their importance to their audience. There are at least two concertgoers holding up homemade signs bearing the words, ‘You Saved My Life'. Every song the band performs is accompanied by teenagers bouncing like loons and singing along with borderline religious fervour. Who am I, with my memories of the 1980s and a hairy ol' Y chromosome, to judge?
If anything, Vancouver's blossoming rock fans have more eclectic tastes than many of their predecessors. The song "Planetary (GO!)" is re-imagined 80s noise pop. "Mama" is Eastern European folk-metal; not a million miles from what the universally loved System Of A Down did for years. "Destroyer" is a textbook recreation of many of Jane's Addiction's finer moments.
They're not averse to dropping the occasional stinker into the set. Recent single "Sing" reeks of pop cheese, while the wilfully generic "Summertime" is the perfect opportunity for a bathroom break.
But genuine lowlights are thankfully thin on the ground. What's more noticeable is the passion the crowd have for this band. That melodrama that MCR's critics find so infuriating; to the faithful it's pure emotion. Even when songs like "Kill All Your Friends" or "Teenagers" are awash with irony, looking around at the faces singing along makes it apparent that this band is talking to a vast number of people at a deep level. For a significant percentage of those present, this may have been the greatest night of their young lives.
This isn't to say you have to or even should like My Chemical Romance. Just don't criticise them for being something they're not. They're not metal. Or punk. Or emo. They're a super tight band that put on an honest, noisy and fun rock and roll show.
Incidentally, whoever is styling the excellent support band Neon Trees has some serious apologies to make. Supremely catchy and genuinely fun, Neon Trees could easily become as popular as The Killers (their sound is virtually identical), assuming they stop dressing like extras in a Katy Perry video and start looking like a rock band. The split second that happens, the world will be theirs.

credit:Robert Collins -

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