Summer Sonic Day 1 – Onstage with My Chemical Romance, Big Pink and Jack Penate

The things that strike you as you enter mid-summer Tokyo for the first time are: the heat (stifling), the atmosphere (oppressive), the language barrier (baffling). Strangely fitting then, as we settle into our first performance of the day in the muggy concrete conference halls of Marine Chiba stadium (the city’s answer to Earls Court) is the Big Pink’s set.

The debut Japanese performance from the London band is every bit as disorientating as the squirming, sticky throng could have wanted. In between the skull-cracking waves of wall-of-din sonic smog, and woozy, heady melodies we’re treated to recollections of Milo and Robbie’s visit to a rent-a-puppy cuddling boutique earlier that day. Too You To Ruff? Sorry.

It’s all a bit close to home for a 11,000 mile trip, as Milo Cordell’s lodger, Mr Jack Penate transforms the heavy, damp air into a carnival of trustifarian balaeria with a torrent of euphorically received cuts from his new album. As ‘Tonight’s Today’ brought things to a close everyone had joined Jack on the cool, breezy deck of his speedboat for a round of sangria as he took a jaunt round his imaginary Ibiza get-a-way retreat.

Now, with the evening and severe jetlag setting in, and after observing some splashes of local talent, it was time to prepare for the evening’s headline set in the main Chiba Marine baseball arena. Three enormous letters were billboarding the back of the stage, white on black: M, C, R.

As we had artist passes and it was raining we asked backstage if there was any sneaky back-route to the main arena. Through some garbled non-communication/sign-language to several backstage staff that mainly involved gesturing to our wristbands, me and my companion ended up in the back of our own personal shuttle bus headed round the back of the stadium away from the crowds. “Wouldn’t it be funny,” we joked. “If we stepped outside and Gerard was waiting their for us, and the bouncers were ushering us onto stage.” Well, we didn’t get ushered onto the stage, but, Gerard was there, doing his hair, and the bouncers certainly didn’t stop us going on stage.

Here’s what followed:

I guess the whole Black Parade-era costume and theatrics is long-forgotten now, but the showtune-esque pomp powered them through a set of oldies, not so oldies and a couple of brand-spankers. Including this one called ‘Death Before Disco’. It’s an urgent jet-stream of head-back punk’n’roll, more in line with their take on Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’ than the cabaret of the last album.

I’m not sure what the safety/distance regulations are on pyrotechnics, what with innocent stragglers wandering about stage’n’all, but considering the fact that no one within a three metre radius of us left the stage with any eyelashes or eyebrows, I think they may have been exceeded.

I think moments like this are what invented the term ‘stemo’ (= stadium emo).

For the encore the band went offstage, only for Gerard to miraculously appear David Copperfield-style on a massive riser in the middle of the stadium for a shmaltzy keyboard serenade. You can see drummer Bob Bryar stumbling around in front of us…

This would have been a really cute gesture if the translator working with the band hadn’t ‘accidently’ given them the symbols for “eyeliner’s for girls!’

Here’s the set-list we nabbed from the keyboardist, geek-out, if you’re that way inclined… Check the bloody pyro.

On the train home our night reached his climax when we discovered that MGMT are so lazy they’ve hired they’re own Japanese franchise band rather than tour over here…