The minutes before My Chemical Romance‘s first show since their breakup in 2013 were full of anxiety.
Diehard fans — some of whom had been camping outside for days next to the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles — wanted to know how the group had weathered the extended hiatus. No information about the reunion was known apart from the date, time, and location. Would MCR still sound the same? Would they play new music?
As a curtain with the image of a giant angel rose onstage, a group of fans huddled in the middle of the venue, intensely debating what song would be played first.
“It has to be ‘Helena.'”
“No, the opening chords need to start slow and then build — ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ is the obvious choice here!”
“Listen, I don’t care about the order, I just need to hear them all tonight.”
By the time MCR opened with a fiery version of “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” any doubts about how the break affected the New Jersey quartet were immediately dead and buried. “It’s been a long time, motherf—s,” screamed lead singer Gerard Way. “We didn’t know if this was ever going to happen again so we appreciate you showing up.” Way, dressed more for comfort than the spectacle of some of his previous concert outfits, spent the evening gleefully strutting around like he had never left. His presence set the tone for the rest of the night as My Chemical Romance ran through hit after hit.
After dedicating the set to their late manager and friend Lauren Valencia, the band delivered searingly animated versions of “Thank You for the Venom, “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid,” “House of Wolves,” and “Summertime.” Way brought back all of his sassy dance moves, throwing his hands on his hips, shimmying his shoulders, and rocking his head from side to side. At multiple points he mimed an air guitar while bassist Mikey Way and guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro got their own solo moments to shine. It was the My Chemical Romance fans have been dreaming about since their breakup, with a fresh, give no f—s attitude. “This is just so much fun,” Way kept repeating during song breaks.
However, the set included a few jarring moments, showcasing just how long it’s been since the group played together. After screaming through spirited versions of “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison,” “Our Lady of Sorrows,” and crowdpleaser “DESTROYA,” Way asked the crowd to sing along to “Teenagers.” But when the final chorus hit, he sang the hook in a much lower register than fans were familiar with. It was shocking to hear such a different version of the chorus, and many in the crowd seemed surprised by the choice. The sudden key change happened again for “Famous Last Words,” and during the epic, defiant show closer “Welcome to the Black Parade.” Singing these songs in a lower register might just be how My Chemical Romance is evolving so as not to injure Way’s voice. Or maybe he just needed a rest.
Thankfully, the adjustment didn’t dampen the mood. “This is a magical night,” Way said. Though there were no new tracks or announcements of a new album (the band is set to play four shows overseas in 2020) hearing all the fan favorites performed with a renewed energy was more than anyone thought they’d get again, as My Chemical Romance officially welcomed fans back to the black parade.
Intro with “Look Alive, Sunshine” lyrics into “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
“Thank You for the Venom”
“Give ’Em Hell, Kid”
“House of Wolves”
“You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison”
“Our Lady of Sorrows”
“Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
“I Don’t Love You”
“Famous Last Words”
“The Kids From Yesterday”
“Welcome to the Black Parade”