The first review of My Chemical Romance’s comeback gig

Here’s what happened at My Chemical Romance’s epic comeback gig at the Shrine in Los Angeles…

The first review of My Chemical Romance’s comeback gig
Eve Barlow
Pooneh Ghana and Kevin Estrada

Support band Thursday describe this decade-ending celebration the best just one hour before My Chemical Romance return to the stage tonight: “historic”. The New Jersey alternative kings have not played a show since the spring of 2012; for many fans at the Shrine in LA, they have never seen their heroes perform in the flesh. This isn't just an opportunity to witness the music they’ve worshipped in the interim years, but a chance to connect with those from all over the country and beyond at the altar of the band that changed – and in some cases saved – their lives.

When MCR announced their reunion on Halloween, the tickets sold out within four minutes. Following their split in 2013, the idea of a My Chem show was as mythical as the notion of a Beatles reformation. New Jersey’s Thursday pay homage to the sense of occasion by inviting Saves The Day’s Chris Conley onstage to cover Ever Fallen In Love by the Buzzcocks. But when the clock strikes 9:45pm, it's time for MCR to take the bait.

Not every band would open with the big hitter, but I’m Not Okay (I Promise) is the scene-setter required. The second Gerard and Mikey Way, Ray Toro and Frank Iero charge onstage they launch into the biggest teen anxiety anthem for the underclasses and the outcasts since – dare we say it – Jersey’s very own Springsteen’s Born To Run. As Frank spits 'Trust me!' and the crowd respond in unison 'I’m not o-fuckin-kay!' everyone is on the same page at long last once again. Suddenly we’re all a little less not okay by virtue of being not okay together.

“Yo, what’s up LA,” asks Gerard in his forever cartoon voice, now 42 but seemingly ageless. With drummer Jarrod Alexander they careen between album treasures that span all pop-punk, ’70s classic rock, ’80s synthpop, ’90s Britpop and pure metal as the fans fortunate enough to bear witness point their fingers, mosh, dance and shriek every lyric back.

“It’s been a long time Los Angeles. Thank you for being here tonight,” he continues. “We didn’t know if this was ever gonna happen again so we really appreciate you showing up.” He dedicates the show to Lauren Valencia, formerly on their team, who passed away this year after a battle with cancer. As is the MCR way, however, he oscillates between sincere sadness and humour by promising to “punish” the audience with a cavalcade of screamathons from across their four-album career.

The set is a testament to how ahead of their time MCR were; completely misunderstood and misrepresented as just another emo band. Their songs are driven by pop melody, lyrical storytelling and insatiable rhythm, crossing genre and refusing to be boxed in. In 2019 it makes a whole lot more sense than it perhaps did 15 years ago. Case in point: the deliriously pop Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) generates such a unified response it’s almost hard to hear the band over it. So too with the vaudevillian Mama. But it’s the songs from second album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge that are met with the most hysteria, alongside an old treat in Our Lady Of Sorrows from the debut – which Gerard introduces as “very stabby”.

“Prepare yourself, motherfuckers,” he says, defiantly comedic and never melancholic for the entire evening. The band are shorn of costume tonight, appearing workmanlike to do battle with a huge portion of their catalogue as Gerard looks gleefully at the crowd, unquestionably elated to be back at the front of his favourite band.

He asks the crowd if tonight is anyone's first MCR show, and the roars tell you it could be the majority. “That’s fucking nuts,” he smiles, while agreeing that MCR are frankly the best.

From the guest appearance by Youth Code’s Sara Taylor on You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison to the first-ever performance of Make Room!!!!, tonight is a celebration through and through, but also proof that the band still love each other with the sort of infectious adoration that bleeds into and among the audience – even as they scream along amorously to I Don’t Love You. More than love, it’s also pointedly about survival. A full-room recital of Famous Last Words would rouse even the most sceptical attendee.

There’s not one but two encores: even after a blistering Helena sends the fans into ecstasy. The house lights refuse to go down and the band return for the third time tonight. “We have one more song. Maybe it’s the one you wanna hear,” says Gerard, as the keys for Welcome To The Black Parade signal one final frenzy from the crowd.

As those last notes ring out, the legacy and importance of My Chem comes flooding back. A band built from the ashes of 9/11 to make sense of a broken America have now re-emerged to take on the infinite shitshows of our micro and macro lives. It’s not only about this community, it’s about rewriting their moment in time. To be MCR is to defy every label, type and mould. To be MCR is to keep on playing even when the world is trying to hold you down. To be MCR is to muster the decade’s greatest comeback just as time was about to leave you behind. We are okay again.

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