To celebrate the release of fourth album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, emo standard bearers My Chemical Romance used their recent metamorphosis into the action heroes of a fully-realized comic book universe to trick out LA's House of Blues as a skewed MCR-branded carnival, complete with midway games and costumed video villains wandering the parking lot.
But despite the heightened atmospherics - and the presence of graphic novel legend Grant Morrison in an upstairs balcony - the band appeared to have little interest in following the bombast and melodrama of 2006's The Black Parade with another extreme theatrical venture. Instead, MCR arrived as a muscular act exploring the risky intersection of '70s glam, '80s new wave, and the mook rock of their native New Jersey, proving that it is in fact possible to generate a compelling sound out of musical genres that wouldn't be caught dead together in the same bar.
Representing Team Glam were the Way brothers: bassist Mikey, pale and wan behind a bedazzled silver instrument, and lead singer Gerard, who sported slim black jeans and a sleeveless black t-shirt to offset hair now dyed a Manic Panic cherry red. As opposed to the gothic drum major physicality of his Black Parade-era persona -- all militant stance and epic gesture -- the ambisexual hip cocks and Perry Farrell poses Gerard tried on throughout the night felt tentative, like an actor working out a character choice. "We believe truly in the art and we chase the art more than anything else," he explained to the sardined crowd, and if that crowd had any misgivings about their former partner in pain now bouncing through the Black Eyed Peas-style raveup of "Planetary (GO!)," they didn't let on.
Anchoring Team Rock, new drummer Michael Pedicone (The Bled) added significant heft to his half of MCR's split personality, and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero clung doggedly to their roots, refusing to abandon garage-honed chops for yet another artsy alter ego. Whether machine-gunning through grindhouse-style opening number "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" or fueling the mosh pit on "Give 'Em Hell Kid," they were workmanlike bookends to Gerard's frontman flash.
Deliberate aesthetic eccentricities being somewhat expected, the night took its only bizarre turn when former Ally McBeal chanteuse Vonda Shepard made an unheralded appearance in a trio of backup singers on gospel-tinged anthem "SING." Their contributions were, sadly, drowned out by sonic chaos -- the gig may have been intended to spotlight Danger Days, but in truth it was MCR's well-rehearsed back catalog that shone brightest, with "Mama," "Ghost of You" and "Famous Last Words" as standouts.
Still, after pumping up the room with "Helena," MCR nailed closer "The Kids From Yesterday," cutting through a potentially disastrous haze of Europe, Roxette, Public Image Ltd, and an OMD-meets-U2 outro to produce something entirely fresh.
After only about an hour, it felt far too early to call it a night, but with little more pomp than a "Let's do this for another 10 years, guys," Gerard walked out. It's unlikely we could have envisioned their current hybrid of Jersey Shore amusement park trauma, synth-drenched pop cheese, recovering angstaholism, and Comic-Con culture, but if this is what happens when MCR chase the art, it's fun to imagine where another decade could take them.
Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
House Of Wolves
Give Em Hell Kid
The Only Hope for Me is You
Ghost Of You
Famous Last Words
The Kids From Yesterday
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