My Chemical Romance gigs are a pilgrimage for the damned, a rite of passage for many emos new and old. Something that has been sorely missed.
For many, the opportunity to see them again seemed a forgotten dream. It’s hard to fathom the cultural significance that this band holds for a certain demographic of people. Input MCR into Google and “Why are My chemical Romance so important?” is the first suggested question that appears. You either get it and love it or you simply do not. If you are in the latter group, it’s likely you weren’t outcast and persecuted at school. My Chemical Romance brings together the othered, the quietly artistic, the tormented, the weird and the wonderful. Individuals who otherwise felt alone and unwanted.
That is, until they came across these New Jersey misfits. Their appeal lays in their painful relatability for people who struggle to relate to the world around them. They provide levity in suffering and guide you in the darkness through embracing it with open arms.
I had seen them multiple times as a kid, when I was in the peak of my emo phase that never really ended, except in my presentation. I snuck out black eyeliner and fingerless skeleton glove and joined the Black Parade for two days in a row. As a person of colour growing up in an overwhelmingly white environment, I rarely felt safe and comfortable being myself. Being into MCR, drawing comics, behaving tomboyish and wearing dark clothing didn’t help matters, especially as someone already othered for their skin.
The few times I was unafraid and felt able to express myself, I was either surrounded by a thousand strong screaming every word Gerard Way uttered or when I was consuming as much MCR content as I could get my little hands on. It was an intense fandom and one that mellowed out with age, much to my mother’s delight. However, it has remained a part of me ever since, laying dormant, yet still quietly existing. That is, until last night.
The feeling of actualising a juvenile fancy is strange and ineffable. Moments before seeing my childhood heroes descend upon the stage, I stood between them and the tens of thousands of people who just like me, had waited years for this to come to fruition. I used to save folders and folders of pictures of MCR. I’d collect any magazine with even the slightest mention of them. I’d cut out pictures of them to stick on my wall and slap stickers of them on my guitar. Years later I am the person behind the lens, getting up close and personal to shoot the very same group of people who adorned my walls and had consoled me for so long. So much joy overflowed from the barriers as fans stood and chanted for MCR. Smoke cloaked the stage before me, and a rolling thunder poured from the speakers. Even through earplugs, the combination of the crowd and brewing distortion was deafening. Nerves crept in as I turned to a fellow photographer, both letting out silent screams and jumping excitedly to shake the anxious energy.
And there they were, like long lost friends returning from another world. It was as if they had never left. Suddenly I was 13 again and wrapped in their warmth. Gerard and the gang surveyed the land and saw that it was good. And with looks in their eyes, as if to say, “Holy shit boys, look at all our beautiful people”, they eased their way into their latest song, ‘Foundations Of Decay’. In the pit, we got to work. Quickly arriving back in my present self, I hunted each member around the stage searching for the pictures my tween self would have cherished. The first three songs went by in a flash and not long before the closing chords of ‘Give ‘Em Hell, Kid’, a large security guard grabbed me mid-shot and aggressively hurried us out.
I triumphantly returned from the pit and rejoined friends in seats nearby. We screamed and embraced, happy at making my former self proud and to be existing in this space. “It’s been a journey,” Way exclaimed, “This is the best tour of our whole fucking journey.” Telling from the reaction in the stadium, this is the best tour of a lot of people’s journeys. It was different from those previous for a multitude of reasons. The Black Parade tour was a masterpiece of theatre and choreography, everything rehearsed to a tee and performed like it were at the Royal Opera.
Tonight, saw a different side to the ever charismatic front man. Perhaps it’s years spent off the road and engrossed in the pages of his graphic novels or masterminding a hit Netflix show. It was pure, chaotic energy. The front man was uncontrollably, letting himself run riot and wreak havoc all around the stage. He creeped around, wide eyed and with a devilish look. Overcome in moments, the singer collapsed and crawled during bridges. At one point, mistaking a black water bottle for a microphone, perturbed when it didn’t work as he tried to sing into it. Strange sounds and bizarre voices filled the time between each song. Often bent and curled over his distortion pedals, and with a ghoulish smile, Way twisted and turned the knobs like he were Frankenstein giving life to his monster.
Under his watchful eye, the stadium sang every word to every song. Now and then, Gerard would stop the show and ask for lights up to help security and medics pluck out distressed, disorderly or unwell members from the crowd. The front man, aided by his trusty guitarist Frank, conducted countdowns for the swell of people at the front to dissipate. Seeing thousands of people step back and move in perfect unison, spoke to the power this band holds over people. Fans hanging on every word and obeying each command. This band holds a special power, one they never abuse and always cherish.
“Are you having a good time?! So are we, an excellent, fucking time, thank you,” Way snarled into the microphone. Listening to hits from the MCR back catalogue was a wonderful thing to hear again and an unparalleled feeling for newer fans to experience for the first time. Nothing quite prepared us for the most distinct opening notes in emo culture. As the piano commenced its slow march into ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, tears broke out all around. With hands on chests and fists held high, everyone was upstanding for the universal emo anthem.
For the encore, fans were treated to two songs. As ‘Boy Division’ ended, roars of content rippled across the stadium. Fans turned to each other trying to decipher which song the band would send people off with. “This is our last song for tonight, for us it was worth the fucking wait. For you, I hope it was worth the wait, the pain and all the heartbreak that came with it.” Gerard declared as they bid farewell and goodnight with ‘Helena’.
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Words + Photography: Yasmin Cowan
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