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Live Review: Frank Iero (Acoustic) @ Utopia Records, Sydney

Frank Iero
Photo by Billy Zammit

Frank Iero (Acoustic)
Utopia Records, Sydney 28/01/2016
Review: Matt Doria | Header: Billy Zammit

As any local mosh pit maniac will happily attest, Utopia Records is Sydney’s designated heavy metal hidden gem. Its walls lined with splattered wax classics and more wallet-bursting merch than one HxC kid could ever dream of, the underground-esque storefront fits an estimated 120 punters on average. That was merely wishful thinking for the crew on deck last Thursday, though, when over 600 devotees wrapped around the block to witness Frank Iero‘s acoustic impetuosity in person. Clenching onto their records the way mothers clench their babies, the brightly-haired bunch stood with an unanticipated excitement; some had camped overnight for the event (shoutout to Lars and Saara), and some had flown in from other states and even countries.

Click here to read our latest interview feature with Frank!

The devotion was undeniable, and within minutes of doors being opened, an impressive 200-250 had squeezed their way between vinyl isles and tucked away behind CD racks. Iero followed shortly thereafter, a polarised gaze pasted on his face as a siren wail of fevered screams ushered him and Evan Nestor – Iero’s brother in law, bandmate and acoustic accomplice – to their front-of-house stools. They’re not here to promote a new record or to siphon fans out of their hard earned. Rather, Iero simply decided that when Soundwave 2016 was fed to the sharks, he’d throw the ultimate ‘fuck it’ and trek it Down Under anyway. At that, he wasn’t charging us a cent – a telltale sign of an absolute legend.

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Kicking off with Stomachaches opener “All I Want Is Nothing”, Iero had the makeshift venue in an equal split of tears and swoons (and… Tearful swoons). It’s the first time the ex-My Chemical Romance guitarist had performed acoustically with his new project, so naturally, Iero was somewhat of a nervous wreck. He stuttered introductions and thanked his fans in anxiety, showing that he’s as much a human being as he is a performer. That much is unsurprising, but what did come as a shock was how Iero has managed to flip the filthy noise punk grime of Stomachaches into a honey-sweeted array of melody-tinted indie jams.

On the record, Iero is broken, unforgiving of his frailty and rough around the edges like a Tru Punk™ should be. But without the scrapes of his garage’d-out electrics, he’s softly spoken with an easy twang, Nestor locking down harmonies whenever the duo swerve into a chorus. That being said, the corrosive emotion and self-destructive ire that you hear on a handful of tracks were, oddly enough, kept intact. “Tragician” lost some of its depressive potency with a Ryan Adams-channeling chorus revamp, but it got the job done nonetheless, hearts well and truly wrenched before the second verse slithered through. “She’s The Prettiest Girl At The Party And She Can Prove It With A Solid Right Hook” was slowed down, mellowed out and interspersed with a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End”, and as much as it shouldn’t have, it fucking worked.

Though he was only slotted in for a short 30 minutes, Iero pushed well beyond the hour with anecdotes and stories between songs: he spoke about his six dogs and how he found a feather in Sweet Pea (one of them) before tearing into “Where Do We Belong? Anywhere But Here”, and told the story of how he embarrassed himself in front of Japanese businessmen before grooving into “BFF” – a song that Iero wrote with his 5-year-old daughter Lily, no less.

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Rylan, a.k.a our spirit animal.

No doubt, Iero is one of the most courteous artists we’ve ever come across – wrapping up with last year’s sleeper hit “Joyriding” (shoutout to Rylan who cosplayed as Joyriding Frank, and their mate Pat who was decked up in Revenge-era attire), the songsmith huddled through the crowd and into Utopia’s loading dock, where he and Nestor smashed out a surprise two-song set for those who missed out on the main proceedings. The show itself may had come to an end, but by no means did any of the hype; for well over three hours later, Iero and Nestor stayed back to meet and greet with every last one of the 600+ punters, to which all we can say is: goddamn.

All in all, there’s no possible scenario in which one could have walked away disappointed by Frank Iero’s acoustic debut. Performing for nothing more than the gratitude of their fans, he and his brother gave us a silver lining to Soundwave’s gory cancellation. Not only that, but he did so by turning one of 2014’s most ear-shattering noise punk records into a mellow spread of chilled out indie vibes. Who cares if he’s technically from New Jersey? Frank Iero is our frontrunner for Australian Of The Year 2016.

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