Confession time – the first time I became fully cognisant of My Chemical Romance was seeing their name on a sign as I drove past Western Springs a few weeks ago. So the first thing I did after agreeing to write this review, three days before the show, was to, ahem, listen to some My Chemical Romance to find out what I was in for…
After a few listens to their three big albums, I liked what I heard and gained every confidence this would be, at worst, a pleasant evening.
But could they really grab my interest and make me want more?
Spoiler alert: They did.
The exquisiteness of any great artwork, be it painting, writing, photography, dance, music, take your pick… is often defined by its use of light and shade.
The greatest artists are adept at casting their work in shadow, and there’s lots of cool stuff lurking there, but it’s the shards of light that define the subject. And from my admittedly limited experience my impression is My Chemical Romance are masters of this.
From opening number, 2022 single ‘The Foundations of Decay’, right through to the encore 120 minutes later, set against a video backdrop of burning post-apocalyptic buildings that over the course of proceedings were doused by heavy rain that eased and eventually cleared away to reveal a starry sky, the audience was challenged to see the beauty in adversity.
The high point in any concert is the songs that get everyone in the audience singing along. To hear the bumper crowd packed into the Western Springs outer fields bellowing as one – “I am not ok” – in glorious celebration of not being ok – was pretty moving. Especially considering when this song was first released the best part of 20 years ago it really wasn’t ok to not be ok. Times have changed a little, and it’s art like this that helped drive change for the better.
The undoubted star of the show was, of course, charismatic front man Gerard Way, who somewhat reminds me of Johnny Depp’s Wonka with his quirky speaking voice sparingly interspersed amongst the fantastical worlds he creates.
When songs really hit the mark, and the audience responded in kind, he would punctuate them at the end with a passionate “FUCK YES!”
And in a great mid-show demonstration of class he name-checked all the supporting acts, including Goodnight Nurse (whose excellent set included a surprise and welcome punk version of ‘Milkshake’), for whom he remarked how “fucking awesome” it is that they reunited especially for this particular evening.
When it came to ‘Helena (so long and goodnight)’, I looked at my watch and wondered why they don’t end every concert with this. Which is obviously what we were supposed to think, with Way cutting in at the end to say “pretty cool ending, right? BUT IT’S NOT THE END! It’s never the end…” before cracking into ‘Mama’ (we’re all going to hell) – well played Gerard, well played.
From there we were treated to the obligatory ‘Famous Last Words’, a song that asks us all to not be afraid to keep on living, and ‘The Kids of Yesterday’ which has taken on new meaning now that so many of their once teenage fans are now in their thirties, no longer ‘scaring the living shit’ out of anyone.
And despite the take-home message of the one and only encore number, ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, being “we’ll carry on”, they didn’t and that was that!
And that was my introduction to My Chemical Romance.
Will I keep listening to them? Well, I bought a t-shirt so I have to now.
Review by Enzo Giordani, photos by Rachel Matthews