LOS ANGELES — "How are you tonight?" flame-haired frontman Gerard Way panted, five-songs into his band's set, which was streamed live on MTV.com from the House of Blues on Monday night. "We are My Chemical Romance and it's very amazing to be back."
It was sort of an odd thing to say, and not just because he was asking a rhetorical question (since it was pretty clear that everyone in attendance was doing quite well). But rather, because My Chemical Romance really haven't been My Chemical Romance for a while now ... instead, as any private in the MCRmy can tell you, they've been masquerading as the freedom-fighting, oft-dying Killjoys, titular heroes of the band's brand-new Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys album, the release of which they were celebrating Monday on the Sunset Strip.
That transformation was evident in everything from the "Zone 5 Carnival" they threw outside the venue — complete with games, wandering Draculoid soldiers and a tattoo artist who, for $60, would permanently ink you with "MCR" — to the Danger Days signage (ads for Dead Pegasus Motor Oil and Better Living Industries, both of which are key set pieces of the new album's post-apocalyptic world) they plastered onto every available surface in the place.
But mainly, and most tangibly, it was apparent in the breakneck, kinetic, downright Killjoy-ian energy they brought to their set, a frantic, four-on-the-floor death race of songs both new and old, all of which bristled with reckless abandon and outlaw swagger.
From opening number, Danger Days' first single "Na Na Na," to older standouts like "House of Wolves," "Famous Last Words" and "Helena," MCR (or, really, the Killjoys) put the pedal to the metal and never let up, pummeling through chord progressions, pounding out rhythms both primal and precise, and whipping their hair hard enough to give Willow Smith pause. Way strutted and preened, blew kisses to the audience, and struck so many rock star poses that one couldn't help but think back to the hair metal heyday of the Strip. Guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero pulled solo after solo out of their frets, collapsed in heaps and kept things churning. Way's brother Mikey was stoic and cocksure on the bass, teaming with touring drummer Michael Pedicone to form a formidable backbone.
Augmented by keyboardist James Dewees and — on new song "Sing," a pair of bodacious backup singers — the band was ferocious, and even on slower numbers like "The Only Hope for Me Is You," "The Ghost of You," and (sorta) "Mama," they still pulsed with intensity. Every icy synth wash, every chunky chord and every guttural yelp was purposeful, pointed. My Chem meant every second of it, and you could tell. And the crowd matched that dedication every step of the way, surging and kicking, pogoing and even (as Way requested) showing their jazz hands in perfect unison. Even the moshing — of which there was plenty — seemed to be more intense than usual.
And after master blasting for an hour, MCR closed with "The Kids From Yesterday," a standout track on Danger Days (an album full of standout tracks), which kept soaring higher and higher, practically up to the Dead Pegasus banner hanging in the rafters. And as the chords finally faded out into the horizon, and Pedicone and Mikey Way kept the back beat pounding, Gerard Way and Toro smiled and high fived. It was part congratulatory gesture and, if one were to get deep about it, part purpose-driven statement: Transformation complete, they seemed to be saying.
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