My Chemical Romance live in Los Angeles: A triumphant, cathartic return

Los Angeles, Shrine Auditorium, December 20, 2019

‘Twas five nights before Christmas, at a place called the Shrine, and a creature was stirring, in the LA sunshine. It had been 2,771 nights since this particular animal was last spotted in the wild (seven years, seven months and one day, to put it another way, but who’s counting?). The Halloween announcement that Gerard Way, Ray Toro, Frank Iero and Mikey Way were finally reuniting for a My Chemical Romance comeback show was met with mass hysteria. Tickets sold out in less than the time it takes to say ‘MCR’, to 6,299 unbelievably lucky fans.

6,299 lucky fans, and me. Sorry. It’s not that I didn’t like them, they just kind of passed me by at the time. I was a fraction too old when they first came out, and – as will forever be the case with music enjoyed by the age bracket just after yours, they always seemed terminally uncool. Still, it’s Christmas – a time when NME’s British staff can’t be parted from the warm bosom of their families/warm bottles of Jameson’s (delete as applicable), and I’m already in LA. So here I am.

My Chemical Romance’s comeback reunion show. Credit: Mark Beemer

All of which is a long-winded way of explaining that out of every person squeezed inside the Shrine Auditorium, I probably had the least understanding of the weight of what I was about to witness. Not that I was the only one for seeing them for the first time. Towards the end of their triumphant, cathartic performance, frontman Gerard Way turned to the crowd and said he saw “a lot of familiar faces, so thanks for waiting around all these years.” He seemed genuinely taken aback when he asked how many people were seeing MCR for the first time, and it looked as if 90% of the crowd raised their arms and cheered in joy and disbelief. This is a whole new generation of fans who never got to see MCR live the first time around, and who now can’t believe their luck. “Oh wow, that’s crazy!” spluttered Way, before adding self-deprecatingly: “You could think we’re awesome, you’ve never seen this shit before!” A moment later, still surprised, he said: “I’m glad if it’s your first show, it’s a good show to be at.”

My Chemical Romance’s comeback reunion show. Credit: Kevin Estrada

That was no understatement. The electricity in the crowd was evident as soon as you arrived at the venue. “It’s real now,” I heard someone murmur as they stepped over the threshold. “It’s really happening.” After seven long years of anticipation, the band weren’t about to let that energy dissipate. Geoff Rickly of support band Thursday summed up the mood when he told the crowd that they were there for the same reason the audience was: “to see one of our all time favourite bands.”


Any after that? Everything. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a crowd where so many people knew not just every word of every song, but even roared back every sample and snippet of dialogue. There were pogoing riffs and big, silly guitar solos. There was the blistering ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’, dispatched straight out of the gate. There was a live debut for ‘Make Room!!!!’, and how could anyone not fall immediately and irreparably in love with a lyric as great as: “Everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to die!” There was the grand balladry of ‘I Don’t Love You’. There were ‘Famous Last Words’, ‘Helena’ and ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ still to come. By the end of the show I found myself roaring every word too, albeit presumably getting most of the words wrong. About half the set felt like it was an epic finale. There were tears, oh there were a lot of tears. It was physically impossible to stand in that room and not understand to the core of your being why this band means so much to so many people.

How else can I say it? I get it now. I get it. I’m a convert. I turned up a reporter, I left a screaming fan. My Chemical Romance are back, but as for me? I’m still not okay.

My Chemical Romance’s 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’
‘Make Room!!!!’
‘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’
‘Vampire Money’
‘Welcome to the Black Parade’

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