The digital billboard in the Starland parking lot said it all: on the desert backdrop of the Danger Days album cover, the words WELCOME HOME. This venerable Sayreville, New Jersey venue, unofficial home base of My Chemical Romance, hosted two nights of their World Contamination Tour this weekend, and everyone on the East Coast apparently knew it. Saturday night was sold out and then some: Starland took the unprecedented step of posting a website notice that not only set a starting time of 2 PM for the entrance queue, but sternly forbade overnight campouts on the venue grounds.
There must have been some amazing line just to start said queue, too, since by the time we arrived at 3:30–having left Maryland about 11 AM–the “StarParking” priority admission line was already nearly the length of the building, about five times what you’d see for an average show here. Crowd was pretty young, overwhelmingly female (I’d estimate a female-to-male ratio of 4 or 5 to 1), and had a single-point focus that made a surgical laser look vague and indecisive. My Chem shirts and jackets—some hand-painted—hoodies and accessories predominated (this is the first time I can remember not seeing even one Misfits ‘’Crimson Ghost” shirt in a gig crowd), with Killjoy masks and bandanas here and there, and judging by the overheard conversation, it was the first show ever for some. Tailor-made for a torrential display of pure love. (Taking advantage of the captive audience, a local band called Audacity set up to play an acoustic set in the parking lot, give out demos and plug tickets for their Starland show on the 15th. Talk about fearless marketing.) Meanwhile, the non-priority line had already coiled out across the parking lot, and by 6 PM was nearly to the front gate. We decided not to dare the floor, and scored seats in the over-21 section by the left-hand bar.
The only announced bands were MCR and their old friends and allies Thursday, but we soon learned two more were on hand, and the show began punctually on time to give everyone their due. First up: This Good Robot, apparently a Thursday discovery/protege (their EP is produced by Thursday bassist Tim Payne). This band was a LOT of fun. Energetic, clever, with a strong singer and a penchant for odd time signatures (waltz time, tango…), they introduced one of their five songs as “about the villain of our story” (“Woe is Barnaby Black”) and another as “a lovely little number about the zombie apocalypse”. Reminded me of Dommin but with more bounce and humor; I hope we hear more from them.
Next up: The Architects: hailing from Kansas City, a classic American guitar-rock band with a touch of rockabilly. Think, say, the Blasters or Jason and the Scorchers. They played a solid, capable set, but didn’t seem well-matched for this tour; just a little too commonplace and earthy. The crowd, in a generous mood, treated them well, but they didn’t make much impact.
Then, the official supporting band: NJ’s beloved Thursday. They came out all but glowing and got a rapturous reception. Geoff Rickly took the mike and surveyed the room in awed happiness: “Are we glad to be back in Jersey? Fuck yeah—“ and they were off. — I love these guys. With their off-balance blend of huge stomping power and soaring emotion they always remind me of some handmade flying machine in a Miyazaki anime—it never seems possible it’ll really get off the ground, but it always does and in the air it’s beautiful to behold—and last night they were all that and more. Intensely focused, with Rickly’s voice in flawless form, they delivered an inspired set showcasing their new album (No Devolución, released on April 15th), one of the first times they’ve played it live. The crowd was lit up like crazy by the time they left, and were the stars of the show any less loved I’d’ve said they couldn’t possibly top that…
BTW, had a county fire marshal stepped in at any point in this evening, I think the whole thing would’ve been closed down. By this point the club was literally packed stage-to-wall, and I can’t believe the place wasn’t oversold to a point past capacity—like, several hundred people past capacity. By the end of Thursday’s set the crush at the barricade had reached critical mass: during their last song a security guy hustled out and headed for the door with a limp, out-cold kid over his shoulder, and during the space between Thursday’s set and MCR at least three girls signaled the bouncers to haul them out as well. Bitter hard, that, to lose your spot after fighting for it so long. But the place was so lit up and vibrating with anticipation that nothing could discourage it.
The stage set took shape, amp cases looking like weathered and stained metal, stenciled, plastered with tape and “American Widow” decals—the Danger Days spider logo—with details carefully added: a Drac mask, some stuffed toys, Mikey’s bright yellow Kobra Kid helmet. The effect was of a rehearsal space in the Killjoys’ garage, and the kids howled with glee at each new addition. –I dared hope: was this gonna be a full-dress concept set a la the two-bands-in-one format of the Black Parade tour? The suspense!—
Then lights out and the crowd recited every word of “Look Alive, Sunshine” along with Dr. Death Defying, and there they were. =)
–I’d love to say My Chem were awesome. They weren’t really. They seemed tired, a bit uneven, Gerard’s voice a little ragged around the edges. (And no Killjoys gear, no use of the concept at all besides the stage set: sigh.) But the crowd’s ecstatic welcome and flood of energy was received with genuine gratitude, and the band gave back 100% of what they’d brought; plus, it’s hard to fault a setlist that mixes Danger Days with a roster of My Chem’s Greatest Hits. (The choice of “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” from Bullets/Love I thought a very witty bookend to “Vampire Money”, which is also in the set. And it was introduced with an eerie, keening “Some day that sun is gonna die”…) They did what you should do when an adoring fanbase is willing to carry you—accept some, resist some, sometimes lean on it and sometimes push back, goad it to even stronger displays and then challenge that—and were just so damn heartfelt and honest. Due to our seats I could only see Mikey, Ray, and the now clean-cut Frank sporadically, and Michael not at all, but every time I could I certify they were dug in, hauling the weight, Ray in a nonstop blur of thrashing curls. Gerard knows the crowd will sing every syllable of every song and takes it as a personal challenge to out-sing them anyway, throwing one voice and an adamant will against 2500+ sets of lungs: he wins every time. (And—oh hell, I’m a fangirl, I admit it—the infra-red hair, the acetylene eyes, that smile…)
In short: These guys do not cheat. A solid set of great material played with grit and heart, and trust me, you could see a whole lot worse. –There was a single encore, “Bulletproof Heart”; a parting shot, “Never stop running!”; and at 1 AM, so long and goodnight.
So: well. It’s great to be brilliant, but there’s no shame in just delivering the goods, and MCR, ably assisted, delivered. So far so good.
[Next review: May 10th, MCR at the Nightclub 9:30 in DC.]