After a hiatus of over a decade, emos most dramatic band is back on the road, playing old favorites and new material that celebrates individuality and defies conformity.
My Chemical Romance, by 2006 an avant-garde screamo band turned ostentatious pop-punk dramatists, released The Black Parade, an extravagant and dramatic opus that solidified their reputation as art-house emo sophisticates. Some of the scabbing from their earlier albums was kept, and on top of that they smeared big-tent pop ambitions; think The Wall reimagined for the TRL generation.
Saturday night at Brooklyns Barclays Center, lead singer Gerard Way noticed the crowd pumping its fists along to Welcome to the Black Parade, a caffeinated march and one of the albums signature songs, and he urged them to go even harder.
He was a little tart, a little bemused, and maybe a little tired when he said, Cmon, Im 45 doing this.
mcr archive (@mcr_lore) October 4, 2022
All reunion tours have the unavoidable undercurrent of time passing. As the first of four planned arena performances in the New York area, this performance was a part of the bands first proper tour in ten years.
For example, in 2010, the band released Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, its final studio album. Since then, emo has experienced a second or third renaissance, Ways comic book The Umbrella Academy has become a Netflix hit, and the My Chemical Romance mythos has matured into that of a misfit beacon.
Weve all grown older, and the burden of the present can make it hard to recall the past. This show was a tug of war between exhaustion from having been there, done that and a sense of triumph from having Survived This Together, with the latter winning out.
The band started slowly, filling the first half of the show with late-career singles that sounded a lot like standard rock songs like The Only Hope for Me Is You and Boy Division. Somehow, this rigorously flamboyant band came off as being reticent about playing their own hits.
After a dry half an hour of bits and pieces, Way said, Let me put on my sunglasses so I can look like an authority figure. What came next was jubilant, rowdy, and winningly messy, with the chirpy swing of the wry Teenagers giving way to the frenzy of Welcome to the Black Parade. In the mosh pit, Mama brought the Nutcracker. The bands best-known song, Helena, combined elements of a victory march and a plea.
These stirring anthems to bravery, defiance, and individuality were a refreshing change of pace. While the bands music was conventional, the contrast between the first and second halves of the show highlighted an endearing quirk: the bands knack for performance and its willingness to be ambitious were often what set it apart from its peers.
My Chemical Romance (consisting of Way, his brother Mikey (bass), and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero) survived long enough to thrive once more because of how easily their music could be accessed. They have assurance in their playing if not necessarily warmth. (It was Mikeys 42nd birthday, so his kids drawings were taped to the speakers onstage, and most of the band members wore T-shirts with birthday messages.)
Toro delivered taut chaos, and touring drummer Jarrod Alexander was blistering, closing out the heartbreaking anthem Im Not Okay (I Promise) with sensitive aggression and then shifting right into the punchier intro of House of Wolves.
This was all done in front of trompe loeil installations of demolished buildings. Rockabilly, ska, and even death metal made brief appearances. Ways growl is just as powerful as his renowned wails.
Way seemed mildly cautious at times during the performance, never quite oversinging, even when the songs called for it. Later in the evening, he donned a tight clear mask reminiscent of Patrick Bateman and wore a camouflage jacket with a T-shirt depicting a smiling face with a bullet hole in its head and blood dripping down the cheerful yellow visage.
It was a parody of the bands original hyper theatrical performance, which catapulted them from relative obscurity to mainstream success. Near the end of the performance, Way recounted a conversation hed had with a friend about making a comeback tour after a long absence and the conflict between playing for oneself and playing for an audience.
He finally admitted, Maybe for a time it was for me.
No, not right now. He remarked, Its not about the ego.
But still. It comes down to that, he elaborated. Saying it so softly is my way of asserting control over you at the moment. Everybody gave a unified fist pump.