It’s not only boy bands who struggle to stay popular as their audience ages. Gerard Way’s former group, My Chemical Romance, were ideal for the kids to get into once they’d tired of teen dreamboats and warmed to black clothing. Now he’s 37, the emo scene has faded, and he’s admitted to “self-medicating to get through” the dying days of his old band.
He’s come back looking sharp, though, with lurid red hair, a tight suit and a solo album, Hesitant Alien, that he has said is an attempt to reach people his own age. David Bowie’s greatest hits played as his warm-up music, and there has been talk of Britpop influences, but mostly the scuzzy, propulsive guitars of Action Cat and catchy chug of No Shows were as anthemic and American as he’s ever sounded.
At the moment he’s adopting a Liam rather than Noel Gallagher approach to his solo future, snubbing his impressive back catalogue and only playing new material. Any songs from 2006’s double-platinum My Chemical Romance album, The Black Parade, would have overshadowed weaker new ones such as Get the Gang Together. It left him reaching for Hesitant Alien’s Japanese bonus track, Television All the Time, to fill his stage time, and promising to hurry up and write a second album next year.
But though he was missing killer hits, his charisma had not faded. He’s well practised in the art of making the insecure feel like kings and queens, speaking out for the transgendered and the body conscious this evening. For the younger fans, he had news: “I didn’t think I was gonna make it past 25,” he said. “It’s gonna be all right.” Red hair gleaming in the spotlight, still up where he belongs, he’s proof that a bright future is possible.
Jan 23, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9 (0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk)