Live: My Chemical Romance at Revolution, May 17

My Chemical Romance
With the Architects and Circa Survive
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale

Click here to see a slideshow from the My Chemical Romance show.

My Chemical Romance may have long ago graduated to the arena and mega-festival circuit, but the band did get its start in the punk scene. So mid-size clubs, like Revolution, where it stopped last night, are old hat for the band. And, as it turns out, these venues could be the most special spots to see the guys at this point in their career. 

MCR's Fort Lauderdale stop -- their first South Florida gig in nearly four years -- and offered the best of both worlds. There was the sweaty, tribal communion of a small venue, but also the polish and kinetic kick of a bigger production.

It probably helped their cause that their openers largely failed to ignite the same flames of passion. Kansas City quartet the Architects played a set of blues-influenced, bar-room-style heartland rock that was able, but seemed better suited for the plastic cup joints on Las Olas. 

Circa Survive, scene stars in their own right, meanwhile fared even more disappointingly due to their higher bar. The band's distinctive vocalist Anthony Green suffered through a nearly inaudible vocal mix through a good chunk of his set, rendering his nasal croon a faint whine. A few songs in, he announced, "Crowd-surfing competition starts now!" But nobody obliged till near the end, when the set finally reached some liftoff.

No matter to most audience members, though, most of whom were clearly chomping at the bit while waiting for the headliners. After Circa Survive had long cleared the stage, for example, all it took was for a roadie to place a Killjoys replica helmet atop an amp to invite a loud burst of cheering. 

This, actually, was the only prop to be found onstage themed to My Chemical Romance's latest album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Gone, as expected, were the matching costumes and set dressings, in their place a basic band banner and street clothes. 

Still, this is a band clearly used to starting and maintaining a serious momentum. Frontman Gerard Way sprinkled in his stage patter judiciously, saving most of the talking for the later part of the set in favor of keeping things moving. Between songs, too, pulsing colored lights -- among the best light shows I've ever seen at Revolution -- plus touring member James Dewees' carefully constructed synth washes subtly changed the mood as needed.

Most of that mood, though, was joyous. Danger Days is largely a party album, probably the bounciest the band's ever made, and the broadest stylistically. While it still boasts plenty of the band's signature dramatic highs and lows, when the songs are played live and uncompressed, their array of influences is truly audible. There was pulsating dance-rock ("Planetary (Go!)"), jangly Cure-style love balladry (the "Just Like Heaven"-indebted "Summertime"), and even rollicking, old-fashioned rock and roll ("Vampire Money").

There were, when Way finally started to talk, plenty of the aww-shucks moments that would wither under ironic scorn but that make the band's shows seem so heartfelt. About halfway through, he pointed out a fan he recognized from past shows for her Party Poison helmet. Soon after asked fans to cheer for MCR bassist guitarist Ray Toro's brother and lady, who he said are expecting a baby. 

Even later, he riffed preacher-style. "Florida, the world is gonna try to clean you up, to fix your face and make you pretty," he said, repeating the phrases over and over before seguing into "Sing." The message, of course, was that you should fight back against those who would try to make you into something you're not. It's something the members of My Chemical Romance has clearly lived by themselves, as each progressive tour reveals more and more a band unable and unwilling to fit into any neat pigeonhole.  

Critic's Notebook

Personal BIas: My Chemical Romance was actually the first live act whose performance I ever reviewed for this publication. Though I went into that show dubious, they won me over and I've had a soft spot for the guys ever since. 

The Crowd: A hodgepodge of rock fans of every stripe, from tweens to 40- and even 50-somethings, and skewing older than you might expect if you're unfamiliar with the band

Overheard: "They played '80s music so it didn't feel stripper-y at all!" 

By The Way: The main force behind the Architects, the three brothers Zach, Adam, and Brandon Phillips, made up three-fourths of the bouncy pop/soul/ska band the Gadjits back in the late '90s/early '00s. They recorded for Epitaph and Hellcat Records and did the Warped Tour to some acclaim. 

Partial MCR Set List: 

-"Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)"
-"Give 'Em Hell, Kid" 
-"Planetary (Go!)"
-"Hang 'Em High"
-"The Only Hope For Me Is You"
-"House of Wolves"
-"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
-"Vampire Money"
-"Welcome to the Black Parade"
-"Vampires Will Never Hurt You"

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Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo