It happened before it happened. Even as My Chemical Romance were yet to became one of the biggest live bands on the planet, they were sort of already there. At least in the UK, where seismic rumblings were happening before they’d even touched down at the airport.
But there was one specific moment where the future scope of their live impact on these shores was predicted with pinpoint accuracy. In January 2005, there was a UK tour that took in 10 dates in 11 days. Taking Back Sunday were headlining. My Chemical Romance were the main support. This writer was selling merch and driving the van for the openers, California’s Communiqué. And every single night it was clear that the sold-out crowd were there as much to see My Chemical Romance as they were the headliners. And every single night the Jersey boys proved they were something very special indeed.
Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge had come out some seven months earlier, reaching Number 34 in the UK album charts, but even further into the hearts of those who quickly made the band their own. Every night, you could barely hear Gerard Way sing because of the voices screaming his lyrics back at him. Some nights – because MCR were just the support band, remember – they’d share a dressing room with Communiqué, and the depth of passion the New Jerseyites invoked was genuinely incredible.
At every venue there was an abundance of gifts waiting for the band from their fans – black roses, homemade cakes, handmade trinkets, handwritten notes declaring undying love and devotion – and it was something the band gave back in equal measure. And have done ever since. They returned to the UK towards the end of that same year, and played, among other dates, two nights at Brixton Academy, but this time as headliners. The fervour was just as intense.
“Such is their reputation,” ran Kerrang!’s review of the first night, “that people turn up expecting to see one of the greatest shows of their lives. The absolute control from the band – as they tear into Thank You For The Venom, guitarist Frank Iero twisting around like a weather vane in a hurricane – is thrown into sharp contrast to the absolute mayhem in front of them in the pit, where shrieks of excitement compete with people singing the words at the tops of their lungs. They’re not just connecting with the audience; they’re leading them, in a way that looks effortless but so few can actually pull off.”
That last line is the crux and at the heart of everything. It’s why their gigs only got bigger and more insane from there. Even as the band evolved their sound and reinvented their image – first with 2006’s world-conquering third album, The Black Parade, and then in 2010 with Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys – that connection with the audience only grew deeper and more passionate. And as the crowds and venues grew bigger, so did the band, never struggling to fill the space on their stage, nor reach the furthest corners of the room.
As they were exploding everywhere, there was something special about the UK, as Gerard explained in a 2006 interview with Kerrang!. Asked if people in their native America had taken to the band in the same way, the singer explained that there was a different attitude at home compared to here.
“In the U.S. it’s like, ‘Come show us what you’ve got,’” he said. “In the UK it’s like, ‘We’re behind you.’ It’s an incredible and addictive feeling. We were home for a bit recently and by the fifth day I was saying, ‘I need that crowd.’ Without it I feel powerless. It’s a reason to live.”