Gerard Way

Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, May 20

Gerard WayDanforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, May 20
Photo: Stephen McGill
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The arrival of Gerard Way as a solo artist should have been more of a story in 2014. Although he may not have maintained the same level of success that his old band My Chemical Romance achieved, his debut album, Hesitant Alien, was a confident first statement by an artist who has, admittedly, struggled with personal demons over the past few years.
 
If there were any doubts as to whether the MCRmy would follow Way into a solo career, the fans that began lining up for his first Toronto show at 7 a.m. surely put those doubts to rest. So fervent was this crowd that they cheered every time a roadie came on stage to set up gear for Way's band, the Hormones. When they eventually took the stage, the adoration for Way reached boy band levels; he's basically a Harry Styles for the disaffected, emo generation. 
 
But Way is a real charmer, and it's easy to see why they follow him like a Pied Piper figure. He has an admirable, earnest way of connecting with his audience. He is a leader who actually means what he preaches, and he did a lot of preaching. As much as this was a turn for him to prove himself as a solo artist, he was grateful to his fans: "I didn't think I'd get to make music again, and you guys make it possible," he told them.
 
Way really only had the songs from Hesitant Alien to play, though he announced after their tour of Russia that he'll begin to write a new album. Like a good, respectful frontman, he eschewed the songs of My Chemical Romance and focused on his solo work, often with a preceding message. For "Brother," he noted that it was about his bro Mikey, and how they stayed out late together. "Drugstore Perfume" was about them starting MCR and leaving New Jersey to explore the world. Before "How It's Going To Be," he admitted, "I didn't think I'd make it past 25," but he found the love that saved him.
 
And that was the tone of the show. Way radiated positivity, expressing his undying support for the transgendered community and any experiencing mental illness, advising anyone in need of help to seek it out. But it all felt a little scripted, like a routine he conducts each night.
 
Unfortunately, the songs also felt a bit flat. Way struggled with his voice at times; anthems like "Action Cat" and "No Shows" weren't nearly as booming as the studio recordings, and this was his chance to blow them out of the water with the Hormones. Instead, they were missing that spark MCR always had on stage.
 
They closed out the set with a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Snakedriver," which most fans were unfamiliar with — and unimpressed by, judging by their muted reaction. But they returned for an encore, after keyboardist James Dewees "had a piss." They ended with a "song that didn't make the record" called "Don't Try," which seemed like an interesting choice, not because Way wasn't trying, but because throughout the entire set, his motto was to keep trying at everything you do.
 
If the rock star thing doesn't work out for him — and I hope this isn't the case — Way certainly has another career ready and waiting for him as a motivational speaker.
 
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