My Chemical Romance at TD Garden // photos by Ben Stas/Noise Floor
At one point during last Thursday’s My Chemical Romance show at TD Garden – the recently-reunited group’s second consecutive night packing the cavernous arena – frontman Gerard Way remarked that his band’s shows were “not a spectator sport.” That was a sentiment that rang true throughout MCR’s 90-minute set, which saw their adoring crowd take vociferous part in bringing these songs to life, as much a part of the show as the folks on stage.
The band’s following is a serious one, inspired by both the emotional heft and sheer sonic power of their songs, and subsequently deepened by their time away from the spotlight. Throughout their meteoric rise in the ’00s, MCR graduated from snarling goth-punk to increasingly ambitious, anthemic music that bounced off the walls of pop-punk, glam, post-hardcore and beyond. Though sometimes pidgeonholed as mall-emo poster boys, they were always more sophisticated than that. Thusly, it’s no surprise to see that a decade on from their last shows, the audience they cultivated then has grown with them rather than moved on.
Like many a pandemic-era tour, MCR’s road back to the stage had its fair share of complications. They reunited publicly from a formal six-year hiatus in 2019, setting up a world-conquering trek for 2020 that went through multiple rounds of postponement before finally reaching the masses this summer. But the wait, however long, is clearly paying off with these shows. From the opening notes – even the moody, atmospheric ones from “Foundations of Decay,” the post-reunion single opening each show – the energy from both band and audience was palpable. No sense of rustiness or obligation ever flashed across the MCR core four of brothers Gerard and Mikey Way (vocals and bass, respectively) and guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro, who drove home every song with the passion and intensity of a group that really, genuinely wanted to be back out there. “Decay” gave way to a crashing “Na Na Na” (from 2010’s electro-tinged Danger Days LP), and the band rarely let up from there on.
Compounding the energy was an unpredictable setlist that’s been a staple of these reunion shows, where deep cuts and b-sides have made surprise appearances alongside the expected hits. Boston’s night two got a whopping six songs from Danger Days and a pair of tracks reaching all the way back to the band’s ’02 debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, plus a generous helping from their best-loved pair of records in between. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” earned perhaps the most deafening singalong of the night, and The Black Parade‘s pseudo-title track brought the house down, naturally. It’s a towering, multi-part epic in minutes and a candidate for the greatest pop rock anthem of its generation – the kind of song you simply have to play every night.
Wherever the set took them, the crowd was more than happy to oblige, shouting Way’s every word back to him from the pit to the rafters. And the focus remained squarely on that connection between artist and audience, with nary a big budget flourish to be found. The band set up in front of a crumbling cityscape set (not dissimilar to the post-apocalyptic metropolis that flanked The Weeknd on his recent stadium run), but that was the extent of the theatrics. Everyone loves a spectacle now and then (just look what Rammstein are bringing on the road right now), but this night was a solid reminder of the power of showing up armed with great songs and simply playing the hell out of them.
I didn’t make it to the show in time to catch Badflower, the first act on the tour’s rotating pair of support slots, but did catch a glimpse of a fiery set from post-hardcore vets and old pals Thursday. Singer Geoff Rickly served as producer for MCR’s aforementioned debut Bullets, and both bands mutually shouted one another out on stage in a sweet moment of full-circle punk rock friendship.