Gerard Way. This name probably conjures up images of the energetic, raccoon-eyed front man of Noughties emo-meets-pop punk band, My Chemical Romance; because that is indeed, who he was. Was, being a key word. Following MCR’s early-2013 split, each of the four members took their own direction, whether in musical ways or by other creative means. As for Gerard, he pursued his childhood ambitions of being a comic book writer with works like the True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys series (based on MCR’s fourth and final studio album), which gained relative success, although admittedly mostly within the band’s remaining circle of fans. However, it was soon apparent that he wasn’t giving up on the musical front, as in June of this year, he released ‘Action Cat’, a single from his upcoming debut solo album, Hesitant Alien. This was followed by an announcement that he would be playing Reading and Leeds in late August. And so, in the week leading up to these festival dates, Gerard, who has sold out arenas in the past, announced that he would be playing a warm up date in none other than Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms, a humble 400-cap venue on the tail-end of Albert Road. Tickets went on sale the day before the impromptu gig, and sold out in less than a minute, with fans arranging travel from abroad, all eager to see what the frontman’s return to the scene was really all about.
Fans (including myself) queued from the morning of the gig in anticipation of the 8pm doors, to ensure the optimum view of Gerard and ‘The Hormones’. In truth, Way could have hand-picked from a wide range of well-established bands & artists for the support act, but in view of the short notice and the new start, local and rather humble pop punk band The Bottom Line played a 20 minute support slot, featuring a couple of original songs and, most memorably, a Taylor Swift cover. Their set, really, could only be described as average at best. But thankfully, and rather obviously, the best was yet to come.
After hours of queueing on the street and craning necks on the part of fans, Way’s band, The Hormones, took to the stage. Though, for the first five minutes or so, without Gerard himself. But one extra-terrestrial-style intro later, the redhead was centre stage and interacting with the crowd. With no introduction he went straight into his first song, a new track from the upcoming album, and, despite it being the first song from his first ever solo performance, both his stage presence and raw talent made it look like it was his second nature. He followed this up with 'Action Cat'. Way’s unique vocals and the supernatural vibe from the Hormones, alongside the lighting and the pure passion from the crowd, made it unforgettable for all parties involved. Despite rumours on social media, he did not play any of My Chemical Romance’s material, and quite rightly too, as not only is there a contrast in styles between this and his new material, but he was almost channeling Bowie in the way of the radical change within the solo comeback, and also in the respect of not looking back or relying on previous success - or at least keeping quiet about it. The rest of the setlist consisted of 8 songs, featuring an intense and unique cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Snakedriver’.
The particular highlights of the set came in the form of ‘No Shows’ (a single released two days prior), ‘Drugstore Perfume’ and ‘Brother’. The groove-led, very 80s driven ‘No Shows’ received perhaps the best reception of the night – the chorus “We don’t need no shows!” chanted over and over with help from the crowd, accompanied with Way’s flamboyant hand gestures. 'Drugstore Perfume', a brand new song from Hesitant Alien, also captivated the crowd with its relaxed, rocky vibe and very smooth vocals on Way’s part. ‘Brother’ was the tearjerker of the set, Way following a brief interval by dedicating it to his very own brother, and ex-bandmate, Mikey Way, leaving many in tears. The song itself might as well have been a bonus track from MCR’s The Black Parade, which was evidently picked up on by the crowd, who were all swaying and, by the end, singing along. The rest of the record sounded more uniform and less flamboyant than MCR’s material, with a wide range of influences including Pulp, Talking Heads, and, most prominently, Bowie. The material was rather varied, but universally fitted together with excellence.
Hesitant Alien is set to drop at the end of this month, so whether you were an avid fan of My Chemical Romance and interested in the new direction the frontman has taken, or just want to try something new, I thoroughly recommend you have a listen.