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My Chemical Romance Prove Just How Far Emo Has Come at Thrilling L.A. Reunion Show

It’s just after 9:30 PM on the second to last Friday of the decade and LA’s Shrine Auditorium is buzzing. Sure, the line to get into tonight’s gig may have stretched down a city block and through what felt like miles of amusement-park-in-the-summer barricade snaking, but no one minds. In fact, this now-suitably warmed-up crowd, who just watched a set by MCR’s New Jersey friends Thursday (who ended their slot with a Buzzcocks cover—”Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”—featuring a guest appearance by Saves the Day’s Chris Conley) are, well, almost giddy.

After splitting nearly seven years ago, My Chemical Romance used Halloween 2019 to officially announce they were coming back (Jonas Brothers’-MCR-reunion rumor-starting aside), and a day later, the outfit quickly sold out general admission tickets to tonight’s event, making this 6,300 capacity show one of the hottest tickets of the year.

So, with the stage set up and ready for the headliners, there’s not a second to waste. The angel-adorned curtain that’s been shielding things from view drops, as My Chemical Romance dive into that driving, opening hook of “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).” There’s no gingerly tiptoeing into tonight’s return show from this band. No starting out with a slower tempo song and a lower-octave vocal. My Chemical Romance—Gerard and Mikey Way, Frank Iero and Ray Toro—are back and in fine form, and my, how we’ve missed them.

“Thank You for the Venom” gets heads bobbing and the floor bouncing before frontman Gerard enlists this capacity crowd for some help in belting out the chorus. And just about everyone in here knows every word. My Chem may be the ones on stage, but tonight, we’re all honorary band members.

“What’s up, L.A.?” Gerard asks, making his first remarks to the crowd, who respond with decibel-busting cheers. “I can’t really see your faces,” he adds, before asking those running the house board to turn up some additional lights so our evening’s captain of entertainment can get a good look at this packed sea of already very-sweaty faces. And seeing this filled hall means something to the singer, who comments on how it’s been a while since they’ve played this city, before offering his heartfelt gratitude to those who’ve come out tonight.

At this show, time ticks by fast but MCR make every minute count, moving through renditions of “Summertime,” “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us In Prison” (with guest vocalist Sara Taylor of Youth Code), “Make Room,” “Our Lady of Sorrows,” “Na, Na, Na” and “Sleep,”—each song sounding vibrant and so, so, vital.

“This is a magical night,” Gerard says before they roll out “Mama,” with the realization that something special is happening, clearly sinking in. And he finds out more just a few songs later when the frontman asks, “Who here, tonight, is at your first MCR show?” Thousands of hands shoot up, taking the singer by delighted surprise. “That’s fucking nuts,” he comments.

Didn’t someone once say something about absence making hearts grow fonder? “It’s a good show to be at,” Gerard notes for tonight’s first-timers.

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CREDIT: Mark Beemer/Courtesy of the artist

MCR finish 17-songs (including crowd favorite “Destroya”) before it’s time to call it quits—Gerard puts his hand over his heart as he takes one last glimpse before the band bids adieu and walk off. Not Mikey, though. He’s still playing, knocking out an enthralling bass jam as fans chant his name, though he too eventually wraps things up and heads backstage.

With the house lights staying off, it’s clear this show is not over. More cheers lead to the band’s return for a three-song encore, which ends with the beloved “Helena,” every hand in the air and every voice singing along in unison.

Tonight is special, so one encore turns into two, and the final number—”Welcome to the Black Parade.” It’s note-perfect as MCR wrap this first reunion show up in a bow—but not before a group photo to commemorate the night, the magic and their return. Welcome back, MCR.