Written by Christina A. Long
When Gerard Way announced earlier this year he’d been working on a new solo album, Hesitant Alien, I was one those hardcore My Chemical Romance (MCR) fans that couldn’t wait to check it out on principle alone. Attending high school in the early 2000s, it was hell waiting to be old enough to see one of their sold out shows. And naturally by the time I was old enough to go, the band had broken up!
Lot’s of kids naturally identified with MCR when they came on the scene in 2003 with Way as lead vocalist. At that time narratives of the underdog misfit had quieted down since the time of The Cure and we were all huddling close to a supposed “emo fandom of freaks and geeks” that was indeed underground. (This so called “emo scene” was a term created by outsiders who only glanced over at us once or twice, wondering what Jpop meant and why we had our noses in Manga books you had to read backwards).
Way’s solo album is a slight change in style from the days of post-punk mayhem, exploring pop-rock rhythms and gritty, up-tempo chants. What keeps songs like “No Shows” from fading to the background of my playlist is the sharp energy coming from Way’s vocals and the catchy guitar riffs supporting contagious melodies. I find bouncy songs like “Zero Zero” and “Juarez” to produce visions of Way’s wily characters from his comic book series The Umbrella Academy.
There has been profound enthusiasm from fans since his return to the stage over the course of this brief tour across the states totaling 8 full performances. I suspect it’s because we have all really, Really missed him. While he’s exploring a lighter Britpop sound with this new album, I noticed on Instagram during the afternoon of the Webster Hall show that some fans had been camping outside the venue in the rain since 2 a.m. for an event that wouldn’t get started until 8 p.m. that night. Yep, hardcore follows this guy.
However, we all know that too much of anything can tip the scales. Metal head-banging writer that I am, I always take photos of a show from within the crowd, never standing on the sidelines or near the front stage barricades. During the show this became a blessing as the audience of excited fans got so enthralled pushing towards the stage that a few people were crushed (including photographers) and fortunately were pulled to safety by staff. I watched within arms length as one girl lost her footing and disappeared beneath the sea of fishnet stockings and converse sneakers. Way only made it through a couple of songs like “Action Cat” and “The Bureau” before stopping the band and announcing to security that folks were pushing and the stage barricade was breaking. Having attended hundreds of metalcore performances, I’d never seen anything like this before. It got me wondering whether the pop-rock scene is more thrilling than I’d imagined.
Similar to those long family road trips with everyone piled into the mini-van, eventually we got situated and the music started up again. The performance was a great conclusion to the U.S leg of the tour, featuring a number of conversational moments where Way thanked his family and friends who were watching from the balcony. Comments and references in regards to songs like “Brother,” were supportive of gender equality and LGBT inclusion.
As the night came to a close it was clear how thrilling this journey of retuning to the stage had been for Way. Before singing “How It’s Going to Be,” Way noted to the crowd “A lot of us never thought we’d live past a certain age, and now we have gotten there and we have to think about what to do with the rest of our lives.”
With fans cheering for an encore after his set was over, the evening concluded with Way covering the Sleater-Kinney song, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.” It’s so great that Way has come back to us through rock music. I’m curious to see how this new solo album is received by the mainstream. #