Photo by PETE TROSHAK
Last night a sold-out crowd at the Trocadero Theater bore witness to the evolution of former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way from a leather-wrapped wild boy to a suave, Kool-Aid-haired thin white duke in a dark blue suit. Way and his tight four-piece backing band, The Hormones, spent an hour throwing out darts of finely-honed New Wave-y rock from his debut solo album, Hesitant Alien, to the delight of the loud and raucous crowd. It is fitting that the Troc would be one of the first stops on Way’s first solo tour given that in 2006 the venue hosted a special MTV concert featuring My Chemical Romance that helped elevate the band’s profile before the release of their magnum opus – the Queen/Pink Floyd influenced The Black Parade. The following seven years found the band burning through drummers like Spinal Tap and playing a ton of shows all over the world but only releasing one more proper album before quietly imploding. In August, Way revealed that he had relapsed into alcoholism during the making of the band’s final album, an relapse that led him to break up the band for fear that his young daughter would grow up without a dad. Way is back on his own and seemingly happy, healthy and forward-looking.
Friday’s set list was all material from Way’s solo album plus two surprise covers from opposite ends of the spectrum. The first was a traditional English folk song from 1906 called “The Water Is Wide” (that Way recorded for Kevin Smith’s man-becoming-a-walrus-man movie Tusk) re-arranged as an achingly beautiful piano ballad. The second found Way intentionally slurring his way through an awesomely sludgy cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Snakedriver,” that sounded like someone playing a vinyl version of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys on the wrong speed to make it sound groovy and satanic. Twin highlights of the set came back to back, first with a gorgeous and melancholy “Drugstore Perfume” that channeled the cold dark jangle-and-tambourines of the early Velvet Underground and the anthemic piano-driven “Brother” which featured a soaring chorus and great harmonies from Way and his bandmates. The night, and for that matter the path that brought Way to this moment was best summed up during “Millions.” Way introduced the song by thanking the crowd for supporting him and allowing him to keep making music and saying that the song was about saying “I Quit.” It meant much more than that though. On this night it was a powerful, uplifting cry of affirmation — the sound and words of someone having the strength to walk away from a toxic situation and make a new start, just like Way did. — PETE TROSHAK