metal + hardcore
pop punk + alt-rock
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My Chemical Romance Leads 'Black Parade' Through Anaheim

It’s beyond obvious that the guys in My Chemical Romance have come a long way since the days when they were compared to the likes of Thursday and other bands in New Jersey’s emo/post-hardcore scene, if their concert at the Anaheim Convention Center on Sunday night was any indicator. Lead singer/songwriter/MCR mastermind Gerard Way and company entertained a sold-out crowd with an energetic and polished show that made clear their desire to be arena rock gods. However, the band members’ decision to not only play their latest album “The Black Parade” in its entirety but also perform the set in the guise of their “Black Parade” alter egos (since the show was billed as featuring both My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade, as if the alter-ego band was a separate opening act or co-headliner) shows that perhaps they are a bit too devoted to this concept. Kicking things off was, of all bands to open a My Chemical Romance show in 2007, the Chicago-based melodic hardcore outfit Rise Against. The Fat Wreck Chords mainstays-turned-modern rock radio favorites showed that they were ready and willing to bring their politically charged aural onslaught to an arena audience. They put on a blistering set spearheaded by lead singer Tim McIlrath’s leave-it-all-on-stage vocals. Unfortunately, most of the crowd didn’t return the enthusiasm despite the mosh-ready music being blasted in their faces, although they showed some signs of life when the band hammered out the radio hits “Ready To Fall” and “Prayer of the Refugee.” It’s hard to fathom why Rise Against was scheduled to open for MCR and its more-Hot Topic-than-hardcore audience on this current tour. One could guess that MCR is looking to gain credibility by touring with the battle-tested punk rockers, although it’s doubtful that a band dressed in cookies-and-cream-colored uniforms even really cares about credibility in the first place. MCR began its “Black Parade” set with a touch that was memorable yet pretty much exactly the opposite of any definition of the word “subtlety” by having Way wheeled out onto the stage on a hospital bed. After lying motionless for a few seconds, he got out of bed and started singing the album prelude “The End,” which led into an energetic rendition of the rollicking “Headfirst for Halos” rewrite “Dead!” Over the next hour, the band ran through all the songs on “The Black Parade” in the original album order, including the novelty-tinged bonus track. The performances of these tracks were flawless yet lacked spontaneity because they sounded so similar to their studio counterparts, although most of the songs themselves aren’t exactly hardcore blasts of sonic energy to begin with. MCR has also wholeheartedly embraced the theatrical trappings that usually come with arena-level rock superstardom. From ornate backdrops and endless strobe lights to the pyrotechnics and black-and-white confetti cannons, everything to help Way live his apparent dream of being the Freddie Mercury of the MySpace generation was on full display here. After finishing the “Black Parade” set, the band re-emerged wearing more conventional and non-matching clothes in a move designed to show that this was the beginning of the “real” My Chemical Romance’s performance. During this second set, MCR played eight tracks from its commercial breakthrough, 2004’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” Of course, the set featured the hit singles “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” “Helena” and “The Ghost of You,” but the band also threw in hard-hitting album tracks such as “Give ‘Em Hell Kid” and “Thank You for the Venom.” Fortunately, more of the band’s forceful nature emerged during the “Three Cheers” set, which gave more opportunities to show off both Way’s magnetic stage presence and the potent twin-guitar attack of Ray Toro and Frank Iero. However, the performances during this set still seemed somewhat predictable and lacking in ferocity. The guys were wearing essentially the same clothes and playing the same songs as they did during their shows circa 2004, when they were still playing smaller venues, but much of the urgency of those earlier shows has been replaced by contentment. Perhaps this complacency is fueled by the realization that they don’t have to work so hard for commercial success anymore. Still, the band performed no less than 21 of its songs without any sign of fatigue, an impressive feat considering the up-tempo and intense nature of most MCR tracks. Overall, My Chemical Romance put on a streamlined and focused show that certainly pleased its devoted following in attendance, although longtime fans should accept that the band is now a top-tier mainstream act that has long since moved on from Warped Tours to worldwide arenas.

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