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So how does a vaguely punk-oriented band, bred in the usual circuit of grungy clubs, adapt to platinum-sales and an arena tour? On Sunday night at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, warning signs taped to the entrance doors offered a clue: "Tonight's performance includes the use of pyrotechnics and strobe lights." Headliners My Chemical Romance, from New Jersey, might be deadly earnest, but modest in stage business they are not.
While one would expect the audience here to represent the heavily painted, tight-jeaned pages of MySpace come to life, instead it was striking in its diversity. Sure there were plenty of flat-ironed, multicolor hairdos, but there were also families with children, bikers, and at least one white-haired sextagenarian. This was also a fiercely loyal, irony-free crowd that thought nothing of plunking down money for a tour shirt and immediately putting it on in time for the band's set.
Openers Muse hail from Devon, England and have been saddled from the start with comparisons to fellow Brits Radiohead. The parallels are easy to draw * singer/guitarist Matthew Bellamy favors spacy, pained lyrics set adrift with a melodious, high wail that often sounds eerily close to that of Thom Yorke. But where Radiohead has been drifting deeper into the waters of Yorke's genius abstraction, Muse is a straight-up rock act.
And a near-flawless live one at that: There was nary a missed or flat note, and the group's layered sound effortlessly filled the cavernous arena. This generation is missing its U2 * a guitar band with no gimmicks, a talent for haunting power ballads, and that elusive Brit-rock melodrama. Muse isn't it * yet. But as Bellamy reedily droned, "You will burn in heaven and you will burn in hell" over a deafening wall of teenage shrieks, it was easy to imagine the group soon headlining an arena on its own.
The screams only increased when, after a short intermission, the venue darkened, and the sound of a heart-rate monitor beep-beep-beeped through the speakers. A spotlight slowly rose center stage to reveal MCR's frontman, Gerard Way, adenoidally crooning from a gurney. He slowly rose, face glowing ghostly pale against his short, black-dyed mop, and stripped away his hospital gown to reveal a black marching band outfit. Lights flashed, and the rest of the band appeared identically dressed, shredding through "The End," from the band's 2006 album, The Black Parade. "When I grow up, I want to be nothing at all!" cried the 30-year-old Way. Then they segued into "Dead!", a frighteningly catchy tune from the same album. Silver fireworks boomed from the stage. More shrieks from the crowd.
If Muse shows shades of U2, in the latest phase of My Chemical Romance, there is an awful lot of Queen. Leaving their watered-down emo peers in their wake, MCR has ventured into glammy near-bombast to great effect. Gorgeous, technically flawless power riffs punctuate the emotional crescendos of many songs. Their hooks owe as much to torch songs as to hard rock. They put on a hell of a show: Besides the fireworks, there were shooting flames; lights meant to look like the starry sky; backdrops that changed from something like a Victorian ruin to an apocalyptic painting of a city skyline; multiple rains of ticker tape; even a rotating, glittery drum kit.
In true rock star fashion, the group saved its biggest hit, "Helena (So Long &Goodnight)," for the final tune of a six-song encore. Thousands of cell phone monitors glowed blue in the dark, this decade's lighter. The kids were going to be okay. Way promised.