My Chemical Romance
MVP Arena; Albany, NY // Aug. 30, 2022
It’s April 2005 and I’m thirteen years old.
My dad who always knows a guy has gotten a batch of tickets and is taking me and my siblings to see Green Day at what was at the time the Pepsi Arena. It’s my younger sister’s first concert. We’re all very excited.
But again, it’s 2005 and I’m thirteen. And at this point, we’re about a year into the Three Cheers era and I’m insisting that we show up early to see “I don’t know, another one of his screaming bands I think.”
Okay, fine, maybe I’m exaggerating that last part a bit: there wasn’t a chance anyone in my household didn’t know about My Chemical Romance by then, whether or not they chose to.
But, that’s neither here nor there.
It’s 2005 and I’m thirteen and I’m seeing My Chemical Romance dammit and everyone is coming along for the ride.
After months of excitement, hundreds of listens, and a handful of weekends trying to learn how to play “Helena” on the drums in my garage while my friend Alex played it on guitar (which, fun fact, I do not know how to play the drums, so off to a rough start right there), it was finally time.
And honestly? They were … just okay.
And I was inconsolable.
The sound was slightly off, the speaker closest to us was having issues, and the whole setup made everything pretty sloppy. And, after almost twenty years and a few hundred shows, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been one of my default answers whenever the topic of bad shows we’d gone to over the years gets brought up. I was able to see them a few times after that, which was always great, but there was always that bad taste lingering, that tiny ringing still in my ears.
The other side of that coin, however, is that for nearly twenty years and after a few hundred shows, I have been waiting for my redo.
Being the wild card that it was, Tuesday night started out messy – a 90° morning quickly turned into a downpour afternoon, so a damp heat hovered over South Pearl St. as lines of hundreds waited at each entrance.
Once inside though, none of that mattered; not the soggy shoes, the running makeup, the damp clothes – a little bit of rain was hardly going to slow anyone down.
A minor speed bump to begin the night, however, was opener Meg Myers dropping out due to an illness. So there was a small hint of nervousness hanging in the air just beneath the humidity.
Without Myers there to kick things off, Waterparks were now blessed with the curse of having to open a show like this, and it didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated – lead singer Awsten Knight mentioned it being their first ever arena show, pointing out that it was a bucket list sort of show. Which makes two of us, then. “I actually went to the Black Parade tour when it came to Houston and sat, like, right here” he said, pointing to, I could not make this up if I wanted to, almost the exact seat I was in. He mentioned again “I can’t believe this, this is crazy. There’s SO MANY fucking people here, you guys. This has to be the best show we’ve probably ever played, really.”
Any time an artist takes a break during the show to point out that “this is the best crowd we’ve had on this tour yet!” or “we’ve been waiting to come back here for a while!” there’s that little feeling of wondering if that’s just fan service that they say at every show. But I saw this tour the next night in Uncasville, CT and he gave the same speech and pointed to the same spot, talking about how excited they were to play their second-ever arena show and another one of the biggest shows they’ve ever played.
For a band that has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, it’s really cool to now be a trivia answer in their story. And next time around, when they’re on their own headlining tour, I hope they’ll give us another shoutout.
It wasn’t all roses during Waterparks, though, despite the red color scheme on stage and the heavy use of pink and red light. That’s not to say they weren’t good, which they were, especially given the circumstances of it being their first show on a stage this big and, you know, the “opening act for My Chemical Romance’s reunion tour” part. With his neon yellow gloves and shirt paired with vibrant red hair, Knight was easy to spot, but for a good portion of the set, the stage was either lit very harshly or very unbalanced, making it tough to actually see the show. Maybe it’s just me picking something apart a little, but I’d be willing to wager I wasn’t the only one there thinking it. But if that’s the biggest demerit to hand out, then it’s safe to call the night a success.
That being said, “concertgoer me” did walk away with a new-found respect and appreciation for Waterparks. “Photographer me,” on the other hand, grew anxious the longer the set progressed. Dark, red, lots of backlight, lots of strobes – not the most ideal combination.
I could feel my 13-year-old ears ringing all over again.
Luckily, after all this time, the universe did me a solid. There was nothing to worry about.
For twenty-five agonizing minutes, the building buzzed with a longing anticipation. Over the PA, a loop of what sounded like “Romance” from I Brought You My Bullets… without the guitar being played too close to a walkie-talkie – a dizzying swirl of feedback and fuzz – rumbled through the arena. That’s not to be taken as a negative; instead of intermission music or a rotation of advertisements, it was indiscernible white noise, keeping everyone on their toes, wondering what is going on and what was coming next.
Meanwhile, chants of “MCR!” rang out every few minutes, dying down for a bit before growing louder with each passing 5-minute interval; 8:50 turned to 8:55 turned to 9:00 turned to 9:05 turned to …
And then finally, the buzz of the speakers kicked up and the room dimmed. And rather than a grand entrance, the band crept their way into view, their calmest moment of the next ninety minutes.
Beneath dull lights and deafening applause, My Chemical Romance began their return to Albany with how they began their return to us – with the chaotic, theatric six-minute “The Foundations of Decay.”
Other than beginning each night with “Foundations,” every night on the tour has been different. While some bands will make their setlist and keep it consistent from Day One though Closing Night, what made the night and this tour as a whole even more impressive is how deep into their catalog they have been reaching. Yes there are the cemented picks – “Helena,” “Teenagers,” “I’m Not Okay,” etc., but even those are randomized and moved around. For example: I was not prepared for “I’m Not Okay” to be the second song of the night; they threw us right into the deep end with that one. From I Brought You My Bullets… through Danger Days, everything has been on the table.
Throughout the night, from beneath his plastic protective athletic mask, Gerard Way brought his demons out and put them on full display. Dark, guttural interludes punctured the pauses between songs, demanding noise and raised arms and souls offered. Howls when he howled, screams when he screamed, and yet, when he politely asked the crowd to take one step back in unison to give the fans at the barricade room to breathe, the entire floor obliged. Part horror show while still wholesome.
Like I mentioned above, their Top 40 hits received huge reactions, but some of the deeper selections not only surprised me by even being included, but by how big the response to them was. Early on, dropping “DESTROYA” and “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” on each side of “This Is How I Disappear” was a bit of a shock and left me intrigued and impressed by the two bookend choices. I wasn’t expecting either of those and they were both stellar.
To look for a single moment in a night that was a two-hour highlight feels redundant, but if I had to pluck one out, it would be when The Note™ happened. Following “Our Lady of Sorrows,” another one that isn’t a B-side but still a “whoa, really!?” sort of pick, the room fell dark again. As the band riffed in the background, sporadic single notes got progressively louder and more frequent as the anticipation built. Then, it was like watching the meme brought to life: “how do you make a room full of emos cry with a single G note?”
One of the louder roars I’ve ever heard a crowd create; more than just applause, but an audible exhibition of the goosebumps and chills being experienced.
Danger Days is both my personal favorite and the best My Chemical Romance album, and I’ll make a point to mention that here. But the impact that The Black Parade had on not only the band and the scene but on that era of music in general is unmatched. So, it makes sense that the moments that stood out from the night featured those songs. The songs that made those moments, again, maybe weren’t ones I would have expected. On paper, seeing “Mama” included would have seemed like an odd pick, but it was an absolute spectacle – chaos on stage like Broadway on fire. Parade finale “Famous Last Words” to close out the main set fit like a black leather glove, and “Sleep” as the second half of the encore was the perfect way to say goodnight.
In case you hadn’t picked up on it, this one meant a lot to me.
To more than one version of me, really.
The part of me who writes and shoots for a magazine took it as a huge opportunity and the highest mark he’s reached yet and can’t believe that it actually happened.
The part of me who grew up buying Substream every month, who grew up with My Chemical Romance, who saw them grow from opener to headliner to worldwide phenomenon and then watched them walk away can’t believe it actually happened.
When I was in high school, for my Where Do You See Yourself in 5-10 Years? segment in my senior year yearbook, with zero experience or connection at the time, I wrote that I will be writing and shooting for a music magazine.
Every so often, a show or a night makes me take a step back and look at where things are and realize that, yes, this is actually happening.
And this was one of those nights.
After all this time, no matter how many things may flip, some things always stay the same.
It’s 2022 and I’m 31 and I got to see My Chemical Romance dammit and everyone is coming along for the ride.
Thank you all. So long and goodnight.
The Foundations of Decay
I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Give ‘Em Hell, Kid
The Ghost of You
This Is How I Disappear
You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison
Our Lady of Sorrows
Welcome to the Black Parade
House of Wolves
Surrender the Night
Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
Famous Last Words
Vampires Will Never Hurt You
Remaining U.S. tour dates:
Sept 7/8 – Boston, MA
Sept 10/11 – Brooklyn, NY
Sept 13 – Detroit, MI
Sept 15 – St. Paul, MN
Sept 16 – Chicago, IL *Riot Fest
Sept 20/21 – Newark, NJ
Sept 23 – Dover, DE *Firefly Music Festival
Sept 24 – Sunrise, FL
Sept 27 – Houston, TX
Sept 28 – Dallas, TX
Sept 30 – Denver, CO
Oct 2 – Portland, OR
Oct 3 – Tacoma, WA
Oct 5 – Oakland, CA
Oct 7 – Las Vegas, NV
Oct 8 – Sacramento, CA *Aftershock Festival
Oct 11th-17th – Los Angeles, CA
Oct 22/23/29 – Las Vegas, NV *When We Were Young Festival