Review: Gerard Way at O2 Guildhall, Southampton (21/01/2015)

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Growing up is hard, but you’ve gotta do it. Still, some clasp desperately on to the atrophying wings of their youth, wishing to relive their dreaming, idealised years.

Granted, Gerard Way’s solo effort ‘Hesitant Alien’ is an indication of maturity, a mellowing of sorts. It’s a course of new-wavey retroism and wistful, looking-past-your-shoulder reflection; while he may wish for things to be as they were, there’s an acceptance that they simply aren’t and can’t. It’s a distinctly personal album from an artist who has spent the majority of their career expressing themselves through the opaque schema of high-concept.

With this in thought, I entered the Guildhall with open ears and an open mind. As soon as Way approached the stage he was met with the kind of adulation usually reserved for Japanese pop starlets or despotic dictators; this was not particularly troubling, in fact at first it was rather encouraging to see a crowd get behind a new project so voraciously. However, I soon realised this was not the case; this was hero worship.

As my eyes dotted around the audience I noticed there were more people breaking down in tears than those who knew the words to the songs. Every utterance faced a tidal wave of frenzy, even asinine comments such as Way stating that he “liked flowers” received acknowledgement by manic screeching from more than half of his disciples. Yet, when he directed his microphone towards the crowd during a song they were positively mute.

It’s hardly a new phenomenon for fans to turn up to side-projects with the sole purpose of catching their idols and it’s perfectly acceptable conduct, perhaps not quite in the terms of hysteria conveyed by the audience tonight. However, it’s objectionable when a fan base of questionable mental stability is exploited as a means to an end; to continue to have work financed. This is an accusation which I pose to Mr. Way himself.

As a brand, Gerard Way is on shaky ground; the Southampton date appears half-sold, if that. In response, Way does appear genuinely grateful for those who have remained loyal, however the way in which he communicates this is discomforting. He continually reiterates how thankful he is that he has fans, fair enough, however he then delves, explaining how he empathises with the issues of the strangers standing before him. It was in all certainty well-intentioned, but nonetheless it perpetuates the notion that he is somehow a confidante, a close friend. This attempt to harbour a deeper connection was not only unsettling in itself but also at times felt disingenuous and even manipulative. In rallying his troops he’s indulging in what is tantamount to emotional blackmail.

This reached its crescendo when Way began to speak to an audience member on the barrier who had camped outside for 24 hours; he called them a trooper and the audience proceeded to give a round of applause. Let’s make one thing clear; to camp outside a concert hall on a cold winters’ day for 24 hours is not the behaviour of a well adjusted, mentally sound human being. Actually, in all likelihood, they’re probably quite sick. To validate that sort of behaviour is potentially damaging and frankly he should know better. Furthermore, to defend this endorsement by arguing that people are simply enamoured by your work is entirely dishonest. It’s one thing to be devoted to an act and their body of work, however it is another to be besotted with an individual. They are wallowing in obsessive idolatry and it is being profited from.

The choice of No Devotion as support made these issues all the more alarming. Formed from the scorched earth of Lostprophets and Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly, their presence regretfully served as a looming spectre to the true consequences that such infatuation can lead to. As authoritarian and Daily Mail as it sounds, these artists do have an inescapable responsibility for the impressionable, often vulnerable people that flock to them. In certain hearts they hold the positions of Gods and this status cannot be misused to prop up an ailing career.

It is a matter of contention as to whether Gerard Way has truly moved on, however his fans have unequivocally not. And he is begging for them to stay put.

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I write about music. When not at gigs I like to spend my time being annoyed that I'm not at a gig. UPCOMING // Takedown Festival

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