If you’d happened to walk by the Oxford O2 Academy in the early morning of November 6th, you would have witnessed groups of young people bundled in sleeping bags. They were braving the cold November night for one reason: a chance at the barrier. It could be Gerard Way’s past successes that compel them, but if his UK tour has done anything, it’s proved My Chemical Romance was not all Way had to offer. The former frontman released his debut solo album Hesitant Alien this past September, and he really hit the ground running. Way’s UK tour boasted multiple sold out dates, causing a continuation to be booked in January due to its phenomenal demand. It was the reaction any new solo artist dreams of, and joined by Blackpool-born Darlia, Way’s performance was genuine, inspiring, and even justified risking frostbite on the streets of Oxford.
The sold-out show was kicked off by Darlia: a self-professed “Blackpool-Rock” three-piece who emit the black-and-white grunge vibes of Nirvana. But their subdued stage presence provided a contradiction for what was to come. Way blasted onto with the stage with a glitter-fuelled explosion of late twentieth century Brit-Pop: “The Bureau.” He followed it up with “Action Cat” and “Zero Zero,” and the room vibrated. It was clear from the offset that Way’s theatrics are just as eccentric as in the days of My Chemical Romance, with his brightly coloured hair and frantic actions demanding attention.
Way was supported by a four-piece band, The Hormones, who were all dressed in a uniform-esque style. This only added to the effect of Way’s pageantry: everything was so meticulously thought out. But despite his strong backing Way’s set felt stripped back and raw, allowing the performance element to really come into its own.
“Juarez,” “Drugstore Perfume” and “Television All the Time” were the tracks that really woke up the crowd, kicking off seemingly co-ordinated dances across the first few rows. The only time the room quieted was during Way’s James Cecil and The Jesus and Mary Chain covers, but it was picked up instantaneously with “Brother,” “Maya the Psychic” and “How It’s Going to Be.” “Get the Gang Together” saw Way pulling a shell-shocked fan onstage to play the tambourine, something which happened repeatedly throughout his tour. He finished his set with another cover, Sleater Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” and the applause was near-deafening.
Way’s set was full of speeches about body image and respect to transgender people, and they were far from those of a preachy musician. They were genuine, and they meant something. Way was musically immaculate, but his show was much more than the music; it was a medley of emotionally driven speeches, fuzz pedals, and frenzied dancing.