Naysayers peppered Machine Gun Kelly with mountains of negative energy when he announced he was abandoning his original genre as a rapper and coming out making a couple of pure pop-punk albums. Well, judging by the explosive sales of those two albums Tickets To My Downfall (2020), and his latest release, Mainstream Sellout (2022), he made the right decision. Add to that his current “Mainstream Sellout Tour,” which is largely a sellout in most markets, and he’s winning and giving all those haters a giant middle finger. Scotiabank Arena was the venue for the Toronto stop on the tour.
One word can sum up his new show. Spectacle! Watching MGK’s transformation into his pop-punk alter ego has similarities to the “characters” David Bowie wore throughout his venerable musical career. Musically different, with MGK on the beginning of this new path, but grabbing the world by the balls with an unapologetic flair as Bowie did.
The fans knew the show was about to take flight when “Welcome To The Black Parade” from My Chemical Romance was pumped out of the PA at full concert volume. The crowd was singing every word and on their feet dancing. As the lights went out, MGK opened the show by being “rescued” from a large box at the back of the arena by a hot pink and black striped helicopter that flew from the stage over the crowd and lifted him up on a rope ladder hanging under it.
With a large spotlight pointing down on MGK from the helicopter, he was flown to the stage as he belted out the opening track from “Mainstream Sellout,” “Born With Horns.” The set was 30 songs long, with MGK playing 100% of the 16 tracks on the new album. His pieces are 2-3 min long each; so he can include a lot of them into a 90-minute show. There were only 3 rap songs in the show; all were from 2019’s Hotel Diablo with “Floor 13” seeing MGK raised up on a 10-foot platform at center stage, speed rapping high over the fans. He’s still got the rap chops when he wants to break them out.
The actual stage deck height was about 3 feet higher than an average arena stage. Towering over the fans, there was no question MGK wanted him and the band to be seen. The other unique part of the stage was behind the flat part at the front was an oval part covered in a checkerboard pattern that extended back and up at a significant tilt. So MGK’s longtime drum killer JP “Rook” Cappelletty and keyboardist Brandon “Slimxx” Allen were even higher up in flat platforms cut into the tilted part. The band freely moved around the tilted area as well. It was a great stage for really seeing everything.
They must have raided the lighting and pyro supplier’s lockers and made off with everything, it seemed. If there was a light, or effect available, they used it. Heart-shaped confetti, long streamers, pyro flashing up, pyro raining down, pyro spraying back and forth, smoke cannons and dry ice rolling off the front of the stage onto the floor fans throughout. Again, it was a spectacle. Even a giant inflatable internet monster with a square TV for a head and an inflatable arctic white top half of a human made an appearance.
There were eight songs in the set from 2020’s Tickets To My Downfall with “Bloody Valentine” and “My Ex’s Best Friend” being standouts.
MGK has always surrounded himself with a rocking band, even in the rap days. Newest member, YouTube guitar sensation Sophie Lloyd, ripped it up with guitarist AJ Tyus, along with MGK, for a 3-guitar assault for most of the show. Bassist Steve “Baze” Basil was channelling the best of the metal world, marching around the stage headbanging his mane throughout and rock solid with Rook on drums.
Opening the show was chart-topping new pop/rapper iann dior. He, his drummer and guitarist, got the crowd pumped up early, with most of the fans reacting enthusiastically to all of his songs. dior also came out during MGK’s set to sing their duet “Fake Love Don’t Last” from Mainstream Sellout.
The second opener really isn’t an opener at all. She’s currently packing large arenas herself worldwide on her “Bite Me Tour 2022,” which is still in full swing when she isn’t guest-starring on some of the MGK shows. Avril Lavigne, Canada’s original pop/punk princess, played an eight-song set chock full of her hits, old and new, and was a compact version of her explosive full set.
The crowd was arguably as animated with her as they were for MGK. She came back during MGK’s set to do her hit new song “Bois Lie” with him. He does the song with her on her 2022 Love Sux album. It’s been 20 years since she took the world by storm at 16 years of age, and she’s as powerful now as she was then. It was a near-perfect show.