My Chemical Romance – The World Contamination Tour

O2 Arena – Dublin
16th February 2011

Despite what many critics would like to believe, some things genuinely are immune to criticism. One of those things is New Jersey rock outfit My Chemical Romance. Despite having to endure the most aggressive backlash in recent rock memory, their legions of fans have never waned and each of their albums have been met with widespread critical acclaim. Being a long-term fan, unashamedly so, I had seen the band play the Ambassador Theater on support of their breakthrough album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge several years ago and had been bitterly disappointed by their lackluster, amateurish performance. Thus, my expectations were mixed going into the Dublin stop on their World Contamination Tour at the O2.

Concept has always been a big part of the MCR live experience and on the back of their latest album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, they certainly have a lot of concept to play with. While the roadies do their thing, images of the band in their killjoy personae appear on screen to rapturous applause, punctuated by pseudo-motivational slogans and various Killjoy iconography. For something as simple as a slide show, it has an intoxicating effect on the crowd, who chant and cheer and scream and stomp louder and faster with every image. When the lights finally go down, any potential relief from the previous tension is marred by pure, undiluted excitement.

Proceedings burst to life with ‘Na Na Na’, which is infinitely more infectious live than it could ever have hoped to be on record, followed immediately by ‘Give ’em Hell Kid’, which is when I started to feel genuinely at ease. Clearly aware of the demand from their fan base for older material, MCR make an effort to mix up their set list with tracks spanning their last three albums. Unfortunately in this regard they don’t quite do enough. While the new stuff sounds great and some favorites from The Black Parade make an appearance (‘Mama’ being a particular highlight), Three Cheers only gets its singles performed and judging from the reaction ‘Vampires Will Never Hurt You’ receives, I wasn’t the only one hoping for more material from the bands debut album, ‘I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love’. Leaving out ‘Thank You For The Venom’ is disappointing, leaving out ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ is criminal.

Visually the show is underwhelming. MCR might be considered by their fans to be the antithesis to Lady Gaga, but to many they’re just a different flavor of the same pop medicine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but pop concerts have become spectacles in and of themselves and when you consider how heavily MCR swung towards spectacle on The Black Parade tour, you’d be forgiven for considering the half-hearted light show of The World Contamination Tour a bit of a backwards step.

You’d be forgiven, but you’d also be missing the point. Despite clearly harboring pretenses of being a bigger production than it is, what we get is in essence a balls to the wall rock show. While the band don’t look completely comfortable on such a huge stage, they perform with admirable enthusiasm and energy, particularly rhythm guitarist Frank Iero, who on more than one occasion appeared as if he was going to leap into the crowd and/or pass out. Danger Days as an album clearly represents a return to the bands garage rock roots, demonstrated excellently with the unexpected performance of new track ‘Vampire Money’, and their live show is striving to deliver the same message. There are no frills here, no bells and whistles, just a band who are genuinely on top of their game, firing on all cylinders with a vast back catalog from which to pick and choose their finest crowd pleasers, faltering only on the aforementioned omissions, never from unsolicited additions.

Also, as an MCR fan I feel obliged at times to apologize for the infurating fangirlish behaviour of my fellow appreciators. Every so often the camera would pan to the front row of the crowd and nearly always landed on one or more girls screaming the lyrics through floods of melodramatic hormonal tears. So yeah, sorry about that.

By the end of the night the memory of their shambolic Dublin show for Three Cheers seemed more distant than it ever had before. The World Contamination Tour appears as if it would be more at home in a much smaller venue, with less ideas above its station and greater focus on what is actually going on: My Chemical Romance proving that past the legions of obnoxious fans, through the sprawling concepts of each album and behind whatever persona they may adopt on stage or on record, they are quite simply a rock band and a bloody good one at that.