2019 brought multiple hell-hath-frozen-over band reunions: Bauhaus, the Black Crowes, Rage Against the Machine, the Jonas Brothers, Shakespears Sister, even the Red Hot Chili Peppers with John Frusciante. But perhaps none were more hyped than the triumphant return of New Jersey goth/emo/glam superheroes My Chemical Romance, whose first show in seven years — at Los Angeles’s 6,300-capacity Shrine Expo Hall — sold out in four minutes after it was announced, fittingly, on Halloween this year.
And on Friday, Dec. 20, those 6,300 superfans, many Hot Topically attired in the band’s goth-Sgt. Pepper/skeleton jackets or cosplaying as frontman-turned-Umbrella Academy-writer Gerard Way’s fuchsia-haired, greasepaint-eyed Danger Days persona, breathlessly gathered to welcome back the Black Parade.
Some of those MCR diehards — demonstrating their eternal affection for the group that in the mid-oughts were heralded as the saviors of the broken, the beaten, and the damned — had journeyed from different states or far-flung countries for the event, and some had even camped in the cold for days to snag a prime spot in the general-admission audience. (A video of Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero coming out to greet fans and hand out blankets went viral the night before the reunion gig.) Among the celebrities inside the Shrine on Friday were Halsey, movie director Kevin Smith (whose upcoming Clerks sequel will be scored by Gerard Way), and Bishop Briggs.
As soon as opening act Thursday (a perfect choice for the bill, since that band’s lead singer Geoff Rickly produced MCR’s 2002 debut album) wrapped their set with a spirited cover of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” with guest Chris Conley of Saves the Day and a backdrop of a black-and-white Victoria angel unfurled, the mood inside the Shrine heightened. Chants of “M-C-R! M-C-R!” echoed throughout the concrete bunker of a venue. And by the time that angel-curtain dropped, and the familiar call-to-arms of “Look Alive, Sunshine” and the Rushmore-inspired dialogue from the music video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” introduced that latter song, no one was okay. Everyone was in their feelings: sobbing, sweating, actually fainting, pressing forward with Beatlemania-like fervor. The Expo Hall at times resembled an alt-rock war zone, but the fans appeared to be enjoying every second of the chaos.
And the band members also appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely. Although they paused early in their set to dedicate the concert to Lauren Valencia, their friend and former manager who died from cancer earlier this year, the mood at the show was otherwise surprisingly light-hearted. Eschewing their unexpected funereal theatrically, MCR gleefully and loosey-goosily bounced and bopped around the stage, seeming as thrilled and stunned as all onlookers that this was actually taking place.
“It’s been a long time, mothef***ers!” shouted Gerard. “We didn’t know if this was ever going to happen again, so we appreciate you showing up!” The army-jacketed vocalist also repeatedly exclaimed, “This is so much fun! We’re having fun!” throughout the evening, at one time blurting out with startled delight, “What a great time! What else you could be doing tonight?”
The energy never lagged, onstage or in the audience, and when Gerard set up the band’s final encore by announcing, “We have one song left; are you ready?” the Shrine erupted. Cell phones were held aloft in almost military-like salute, as all 6,300 merry misfits in attendance belted along to what was essentially the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the punk/pop era and certainly one of the greatest anthems of the entire 2000s, “Welcome to the Black Parade.”
“It’s been a long time, Los Angeles,” Gerard grinned. “Thank you for being here tonight. We didn’t know if this was ever going to happen again. So thank you, guys, for showing up. It feels good being here with you tonight in this place.”
My Chemical Romance’s reunion — which was actually spoiled earlier this year by, of all unlikely people, the above-mentioned Jonas Brothers — was initially believed to be a one-off event, although MCR have since announced a handful of 2020 dates in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The band recently revealed in a Twitter post that they first got back together in 2017 to “see what would happen,” and that they rehearsed for 39 days leading up to their L.A. comeback concert. So far, no other U.S. dates or plans for new music have been announced, but suffice to say, fans welcomed back the Black Parade with open, tattooed arms.
My Chemical Romance’s Shrine Expo Hall setlist was:
“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”
Check out a classic MCR performance from 2004 in the Yahoo studio:
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