LIVE: Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers / Frank Iero and the Future Violents @ Academy 2, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

It’s battle of the longest band names in punk this evening, as Laura Jane Grace and Frank Iero bring their latest solo ventures to Manchester.

It’s a powerhouse of a co-headline show with the pair both releasing impressive records in the past 18 months. The Devouring Mothers’ debut ‘Bought to Rot’ was Grace’s first solo album in almost a decade and sways between the visceral punk to lullaby pop as she takes on everything from parenthood to her burning hatred of Chicago. Iero’s most recent incarnation of his post-My Chemical Romance projects is The Future Violents, and the early-2019 ‘Barriers’ has once again proved him adept as both a songwriter and front man.

The Future Violents is a major departure from Iero’s earlier solo projects with a much heavier sound, but still with Iero’s vocal range grooving through harmonies. He is greeted on stage with a reception akin to Elvis Presley’s 1968 comeback special and there is a constant, deafening din as every fan – clad in a myriad of black t-shirts from My Chemical Romance to Joy Division – hammers back every word.

It is a supercharged set with Iero rattling through the rapturous ‘I’m a Mess’ and a sadly poignant title of our time in ‘Young and Doomed’. The new direction of the Future Violents suits Iero’s persona effortlessly and the thrashing tracks are striking a chord with fans yearning for some MCR vibes. A guttural chorus of “here we fucking go” is the red rag to the crowd as bodies fly during ‘Weighted’, and there’s even a cheeky treat of an encore as he quickly returns for a rendition of ‘Oceans’.

Upon releasing her second solo album, Laura Jane Grace told Rolling Stone that her debut, ‘Heart Burns’, was recorded during “really dark times”. Her main band Against Me! had hit a turbulent period back in 2008, and the record was a reflection of a clouded mind filled with ideas, yet without a drive and focus.

In the decade since, Grace’s work seems to have been liberated and she walks on stage with a huge beaming grin. The stripped-back three piece – including Against Me! drummer Atom Willard – that forms the Devouring Mothers suits the garage band feel of Grace’s latest project.

It is a joyful set of wit, self-deprecation, and a whole lot of laughs. There are excellent pop shades in ‘Apocalypse Now (& Later)’ and ‘The Airplane Song’, which, as if you hadn’t already guessed, is simply Grace detailing every flight she has ever taken. There is a moment for Grace to trot out her absolute contempt for the city of Chicago, “honestly, it is my mission to go around the world telling people they shouldn’t go to Chicago,” she laughs. “It shouldn’t have fucked with me,” she jokes before heading into ‘I Hate Chicago’.

Grace does allow herself to open the ‘Heart Burns’ vault with an airing of both the subtle ‘Conceptual Paths’ and the anarchic ‘Amputations’. There is also an anthem to the parents in the room who she confides with, asking “I just hope my kid never grows up to hate me”, before playing the beautiful ‘The Apology Song’.

The only crying shame of the evening is that there is a considerable thinning out of the crowd after Iero’s thrashing, however, it didn’t seem to matter to Grace, whose beaming smile lit up the summer streets of Manchester.