“How’ve you been, New York?” asks Gerard Way. “I’ve missed you.”
Gerard Way, live in New York
Venue: Irving Plaza
A rousing reception as the former MCR man returns to the East Coast
Judging by the deafening, ear-piercing screams that meet the former My Chemical Romance man’s question, the answer is more than positive – especially now that Way and his band are back playing live music. Yet tonight isn’t about the past, but about the present – Way showcasing songs from his first solo album, Hesitant Alien. The first of two relatively intimate gigs – at venues holding around 600 people, rather than the arenas MCR used to play – tonight is an exercise in carefully crafted showmanship and high-octane performance.
Looking as youthful as ever – somewhere, surely, there’s a rapidly aging painting of the baby-faced 37 year-old – he leads his band through a storming set of new material. Kicking off proceedings with the glam rock stomp of The Bureau, Way cuts an imposing, commanding figure. His band are tight and impressively solid, but there’s no doubt it’s Way who’s in charge. With a confidently dramatic, theatrical air, he guides the musicians onstage through, among others, a rousing rendition of Television All The Time, the Britpop stylings of Millions and the blistering sting of Juarez. Each time, the response is massive – it sounds more like a stadium pop concert than an alternative rock gig art a medium sized venue, something that’s testament to the continuing allure of Way and his music, and the way it connects with his audience. The album only came out at the end of September, but everybody knows the words to every song – not least the impossibly poppy, almost sweet-sounding hooks of No Shows and the abrasive, pounding power of Zero Zero – which sounds much more Smashing Pumpkins-esque tonight than it does on record.
Clearly, Way – his hair dyed bright red, looking dapper in a sharp suit – is playing a character, a version of himself created for this album, but there’s nothing wrong with that. He does it well and with the utmost conviction. He’s full of energy, his voice is strong and it’s clear he’s invested in what he’s doing. As are the crowd – and he feeds off their effusive encouragement, all the while maintaining an air of calm, collected cool. After all, he was one of the biggest rock stars on the planet for quite a while, and however new and different these songs are, underneath it all, he’s still Gerard Way. And tonight is proof that he’s a pure and natural entertainer. And just as he’s missed New York, New York has very much missed him.