Review: Gerard Way at Koko, London

Somehow, my friend Christie managed to get hold of two tickets to see Gerard Way at Camden's Koko on Monday which, both being huge MCR fangirls, was pretty exciting for us. We've already seen him play solo at Reading, but this was to be our first experience of his own gig without the other 3- or 4, depending on the year- band mates. 

Being old and having used up all our waiting-in-line-for-9-hours-to-get-to-the-barrier days 10 years ago, we decided to pop across the road and have a drink before heading into the Koko at the end of support act Darlia's set.

Securing a nice little spot in the corner of the lower floor, we had a good vantage point to see the stage while keeping sweaty teenagers at arm's length. We were both surprised by how many young teens were in attendance, often with their parents. I'd assumed that his fan base would mostly be girls in their mid to late 20s- those who were teenagers when MCR hit the scene. However, we let these whippersnappers head down the front while we hung back with the parents, an odd-looking man who turned out to be the editor of Kerrang, and two very nice Glaswegians who had bought tickets on Gumtree, unaware that they were for the January gig, but were kindly allowed in by security.  

In between support acts, David Bowie's greatest hits played as a reminder of the artist and British music that has always inspired Gerard. His debut solo album, Hesitant Alien, and new flame-haired image is certainly reminiscent of Bowie but his influence has been obvious as far back as 2005's cover of Under Pressure

Before Gerard walked out on stage, however, we were treated (for want of a better word) to Chantal Claret's support set. Her shrill squealing voice was immediately grating for me but was made up for by her catchy, bluesy rock pop tracks and her infectiously happy backing singers. Although undeniably entertaining, Chantal's antics on stage were increasingly sexual in a quite antiquated fashion, strutting around with her microphone propped in her cleavage and selling her broken bra. Halfway through her set, she took time out to thank Gerard for being such a genuinely nice person for allowing her to support him, telling the crowd that she was tearing up just from thinking about how lovely it was of him. I was a little confused as to why she was chosen to support him. Although her sound was certainly well-matched, her antics on stage were an odd choice for a predominantly young female audience. Then, for her last song, she brought out her husband- Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, the band mate of Gerard's wife. Suddenly everything seemed very contrived when it became clear that she was Gerard's mate and I was pretty disappointed, even more so when she began clambering over her husband and licking his stomach, ending her set with a gratuitous kiss. 

By the time Gerard walked out, in a far more humble manner than his previous touring days (although Christie hoped he was going to be lowered from the ceiling Mission Impossible-style!), the crowd was crazy with anticipation. Kitted out as ever in his sharp Modish suit, he has clearly lost none of his charisma or stage presence. His ability to control the crowd is enviable. Whether he asks them to show him jazz hands or chant on command, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand. 

Playing both Action Cat and Millions within the first four songs, Gerard perhaps peaked too early as the energy levels slumped towards the middle of his set with four slower numbers in a row. The problem here is that with only one album to fill an entire set, and understandably refusing to bring out past hits with the band, it's necessary to play those tracks that just don't work well live, even with the inclusion of two cover songs and a Japanese bonus track. 

The second problem with basing an entire gig around a single album was the need to fill time by talking to the crowd. This has never been a problem for Gerard. As a charismatic showman, he's always been able to strike the audience with powerful and entertaining speeches. In this intimate venue, however, he struggled. Darting from campaigning for transgendered people's rights and saluting women's power, to admonishing body shaming and assuring fans that they will be ok as they pass 25 (a possible nod to his original fanbase), he seemed to try and tick as many positive-message boxes as possible but without any context. The end result was one of trying to be all things to all people and ended up with a show that was half music and half Gerard's Soapbox.

Of course he was a thoroughly enrapturing performer, strutting around the stage with the confidence that a decade of live shows has fostered and unashamedly open with his vocals. Assured that he is working on a new album in September (cue obvious hysterical reaction from the crowd), this time next year should bring a more dynamic set list. 

I loved the gig. It was fantastic seeing Gerard in his element again and I feel very honoured to have seen him in such an intimate setting. But you better believe I'm excited to see what he can pull out with more tracks to choose from! 

1 comment :

  1. Thank you for this honest review! I can really imagine what it was like. As a fellow MCR-fangirl I'm excited to listen to his new creations very soon. But I'm still hoping for a future reunion. ;)
    x Sonja

    Shiny Glitter Things


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