After an absence of seven years, My Chemical Romance returned to the stage on Friday night (Dec. 20) at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium for a career-spanning set that encompassed some of the most taut and tender moments from their four studio albums.
The New Jersey band’s return feels particularly timely. Modern stars such as Halsey, Yungblud, and the late Lil Peep have professed their love for the band’s music, and their willingness to speak about mental fragility with the kind of honesty that was uncommon during the early 21st century. Back then, it was something that earned them the (often derisive) emo-rock tag, but with such issues now front-and-center in today’s pop landscape, MCR’s return feels far more important than a simple exercise in nostalgia.
The pre-show expectancy was so high that just the sound of a tech tuning up a guitar brought screams from the crowd. But once singer Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, and guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro kicked into the ripping opener “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” they set off pure pandemonium for the next hour and 45 minutes. “We didn’t know if this show was ever gonna happen, so thanks for showing up,” Way explained to the crowd, before adding that the evening was dedicated to the band’s former manager Lauren Valencia, who passed away in July following a battle with cancer.
The first half of the set in particular came stacked with deep cuts including “Make Room!!!” (included on the 2013 compilation Conventional Weapons) and a brutal “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” featuring Youth Code’s Sara Taylor adding guest vocals.
Despite his energy on stage, Way did fess up to his limits. “You want me to stage dive?” he asked some overly-enthusiastic members of the front row. “Those days are over. I’ll fall apart.” Just seconds later, the band fittingly launch into a rousing “Teenagers” — a song Way sheepishly penned about beginning to feel his age.
But it was no surprise to hear that cuts from 2006’s rock-opera The Black Parade were met with the most effusive response. 13 years on from the album’s release, such musically, lyrically, and emotionally articulate songs such as “Mama” and “Famous Last Words” still offer the band’s tribe a special solace. Frequently, Way was drowned out by the sound of the band’s fans singing the words back at him.
Following a brisk encore of “Vampire Money” and “Helena,” Way cheekily teed up their finale.
“We have one more song for you… maybe it’s the one you want to hear.” The Queen-esque crowning achievement of “Welcome to the Black Parade” was always going to be the show-stopper, and it was the perfect end to a night that felt like a new beginning. They may not have played any new material for now, but My Chemical Romance have reformed with a vigor that suggests they’re looking forward just as much as they are looking back.