My Chemical Romance Houston
“Your lyrics gave me a voice.”
“We waited for a lifetime.”
These are just some of the words written across signs fans held up yesterday at the Toyota Center. My Chemical Romance filled up the stadium Tuesday night, finally performing on their reunion tour originally scheduled for 2020. It was worth the wait.
Fans began to gather outside the venue hours before doors. Many were dressed as in tribute to their favorite MCR albums or characters. They made new friends and met up with old ones in the shade offered near the main entrance, just within earshot of the band’s music blasting from one to the merch trailer.
Taking it back
Formed in Newark, New Jersey, My Chemical Romance has come a long way from playing in basements for fans in home-made t-shirts. Despite their breakup and years of inactivity, the fanbase stayed true and active. If anything, it only grew during their absence. When their reunion was announced in true MCR fashion on Halloween night 2019 (also rhythm guitarist Frank Iero’s birthday), the fanbase went wild.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, My Chemical Romance was set to perform on the Houston date of their reunion tour, originally scheduled for Sept. 29 of 2020. Not only have fans waited a decade to see their favorite band return, but they have endured a pandemic between now and the original date.
Following an energetic performance by fellow New Jersey band Midtown, concertgoers began to cease moving from their seats, excited for the show to start.
Cheers erupted during setup when a crew member began to vacuum the stage. A quick tradition, fans have been celebrating the vacuuming crew member in every city. The rest of the crew quickly caught on, now making a point of playing seductive music and pointing a spotlight at them as they cleaned.
The show begins
Finally, it was showtime. A roar came from the stage. Fans quickly recognized it as the sound heard at the start of “Foundations of Decay,” My Chemical Romance’s first single since 2013. Clips of the visualizer by Aaron Hymes intercut between live clips of the stage confirmed the upcoming track. The intro droned on for what seemed like forever, fans on their feet, straining to see any sort of activity on stage. At last, the guitar techs darted in to set the instruments down, followed by My Chemical Romance silently filing in through the shadows of large red drapes covering the set.
Screams drowned out the first few seconds of “Foundations of Decay.” The excitement in the audience was unparalleled to anything I’d experienced in my 300+ concerts. The people were loud, eager and joyous. Tonight’s drum read “Feeling Good” and Gerard Way’s outfit seemed to be a Manson cult reference.
Although the single has only been out for a few months, the stadium screamed along to every word. Those that did not stood in shock, eyes glued to the stage in disbelief that the moment was finally here.
The red drapes dropped with the chorus, revealing a decrepit cityscape to the roaring crowd.
After finishing the song, the band dove straight into “Bury Me In Black,” a demo once exclusively available on “Life on the Murder Scene,” a DVD documentary set released in 2006. Fans screamed again, not expecting the beloved deep cut all, let alone so early in the set.
Emotions were kept high as the band played “I’m Not Okay,” one of their biggest hits responsible for catapulting them into international stardom in 2004.
Fans were encouraged to dance along to the next song, “Planetary (GO!).” The stage was bathed in bright bars of green, red and blue. The song is special to the band, recorded as a party anthem meant to “pogo stick and drive fast to.”
Audience members were given a moment to breathe during a stripped-down version of “The Ghost of You,” then shaken back up by the punk-rock “Our Lady of Sorrows.”
Frontman Gerard way messed around on his pedalboard following the end of the song. Way began collecting pedals post-break-up, and has delighted in incorporating them into recent live shows.
“Giddy up,” he said into the mic, testing his voice through a different setting. Some fans screamed, instantly anticipating the next song. “Giddy up,” he said again, smiling as some fans screamed the name of the song.
“Hang ‘Em High’ blasted through the stadium, a song the band has said they find really fun to play live. Clearly, one audience member also enjoys dancing too.
In early 2013, My Chemical Romance began releasing Conventional Weapons, five sets of A and B-sides from a scrapped would-have-been fourth studio album, before they wrote “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.” Over the years, these tracks have grown to have a cult following. Dedication to the songs was rewarded when “The World Is Ugly” began to play. Simple lighting shone through the stage and onto the audience. Beams danced like sunlight, evoking the lyrics ‘For every failing sun, there’s a morning after’ to mind immediately.
Rhythm guitarist Frank Iero appeared to mouth along. MCR’s self-proclaimed #1 fan joined the band late into the recording of their debut “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.” His devotion to the band has yet to fade, and he never fails to thank fans for the opportunity of allowing him to live out his dream.
“Boy Division” was the next “Conventional Weapons” track on the roster. Bassist Mikey Way bounded from one end of the stage to another. In prior tour cycles, Way had been notorious for standing still in one little area of the stage, with Iero being the one known to launch himself on every square inch of available (or unavailable) floor space. It was interesting to see the dynamics turn.
Fans celebrated at the first G note denoting the beginning of “Welcome to the Black Parade,” a song now bigger than anything the band could have imagined.
“We gotta make an announcement; we’re getting a contact high from the weed…he’s stoned as fuck right now,” said Way, pointing at guitarist Ray Toro. “Come on, party at home. This is enough for you, just this. This is all you get!” he teased, following up with“Teenagers,” another anthem sure to get airplay in a classic rock station in 30 years’ time.
“Mama” followed up strong, a song detailing memories of war as told by The Patient, a character of 2006’s “The Black Parade.”
Way excitedly introduced “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” off “Danger Days,” requesting that fans wave their arms about in sync to the beat. The effect was interesting, though perhaps unintended. If you squinted, the band looked like scarecrows, playing in a field of arms waving in the breeze.
“The future is bulletproof. The aftermath is secondary,” said Way, smiling through his bangs as he fiddled with his pedalboard again. Those who had taken a seat hopped up again, eager to sing along to “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na),” the anthem of the Killjoys.
Awake and unafraid
“Famous Last Words” followed. It began suddenly and strongly, eliciting gasps and screams from fans who held it as a battle cry. The performance was excellent, but when the band abruptly stopped playing, the real magic shined;
“I see you lying next to me
With words I thought I’d never speak
Awake and unafraid
Asleep or dead”
Houston sang the words to the band as they smiled back at them. Some faces glistened with tears, others were wide with smiles, all were delighted with the night.
The stage fell black and silent after the song ended, signaling the end of the show. Fans applauded the whole time they waited for the encore. They were not disappointed, as the band came back soon after for the iconic “Vampires Will Never Hurt You.”
Way led the stadium in a melody, getting them to mimic the notes he sang. Chills ran down my spine, immediately knowing which song was next. I’d watched YouTube videos as a child of live MCR performances, and the band often started their closer like so.
“Long ago, just like the hearse you died to get in again,” sang Way, joined by the voices of thousands of Houstonians. “We are so far from you…”
Lights circled and spiraled on the stage, reminiscent of how the dancers in the “Helena” music video glided across the church floor.
My Chemical Romance delivered what they promised to Houston in 2020 and more. Despite the simplistic set and a lack of bells and whistles other acts are prone to, My Chem brought more emotion and showmanship than most other acts can only dream of accomplishing in a lifetime. Welcome back, we waited a lifetime.