In a perfect storm of catharsis, it was an evening of mutual devotion, fierce passion, and an understanding that music can save you.
If Patrick Stump was right and the scene really had become a goddamn arms race, there’s a fair argument to say that by the end of 2006, My Chemical Romance was winning.
Months after the release of their gargantuan rock-opera The Black Parade, it was obvious that the emo subculture MCR had dominated along with Fall Out Boy, Brand New, Paramore and Panic! At The Disco had gone mainstream. And I don’t mean that the jocks had stopped making fun of you for your eyeliner,
I mean, your Mum was now starting to ask questions because the ladies on the Today show were talking about it. And they weren’t always questions you wanted to answer. People gravitated to My Chemical Romance because Gerard Way was giving a voice to every insecurity, anxiety, and moment of self-loathing you had, and crucially they were offering you hope and a path forward.
If misery loves company, then in 2007 this company could have gone public on the stock market and made a killing. But they didn’t. Despite their increasing popularity, the magazine front covers and MTV attention, MCR remained decidedly focused on the pocket of fans who had downloaded fourteen live versions of Vampires Will Never Hurt You on Limewire. It was a fan base built on mutual devotion, fierce passion, and an understanding that music really can save you. So the big question was, thirteen years after the release of their last album and tour of Australia: is the magic still there? With the angst of teenage melodrama long since faded and the black stovepipe jeans not quite fitting as well as they used to, would MCR be able to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was so crucial to their success?
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The answer is plainly yes. But maybe not for the reasons you’d suspect. Since their breakup in 2013 (almost to the day), there had been petitions for this band to get back together. There were entire Reddit forums dedicated to deciphering cryptic clues and messages from the bandmates that might hint at a future reformation. So when the band finally ended their hiatus in 2019, it triggered a revival of the entire genre that still plays out today. Now patiently waiting for Australia’s turn in the queue for any world tour is hard enough but throw in a few COVID-related delays, and by 2023 the Australian MCR fanbase were rabid and starving. But this all played into the band’s hand on the night. Rod Laver Arena felt like a pressure cooker of pent-up emotion, excitement, and feverish anticipation. Blink your eyes, and it could have been 2006; the elongated wait for fans to exorcise their need to see MCR live bred the energy and intoxicating atmosphere that elevates their music past a run-of-the-mill screamo band.
Thankfully for the starved masses, the band delivered everything they could ever want. Dressed as a mildly terrifying school mistress, Way dominated the stage in ecstasy, frequently falling to his knees, cocking his leg on guitar amps and strutting like an emo Mick Jagger. Which isn’t too far a stretch when you consider Ray Toro’s guitar style. He may look like Dave Mustaine’s son, but he plays like a classic rock guitarist. Yes, it’s influenced by everything from doom metal to punk to post-hardcore, but listening to his riffs, it’s obvious this man grew up on The Stones and The Eagles. Take Teenagers, for example – which sounded spectacular, by the way – and tell me it doesn’t sound remarkably like Eagle Rock. And this is the secret ingredient to MCR’s success. No other emo band of their era had a musician as good as Ray Toro, and he played so well that I’d be willing to consider a name change to Ray Toro Arena.
Toro adulation aside, MCR manage to nail every ingredient that once made them the unlikeliest of poster boys. Unsurprisingly, they played a setlist for the diehard fans, opening the encore with their first-ever single and dropping two of the singles off Conventional Weapons, their compilation of previously unreleased material. But it really didn’t matter. They were here. In front of the fans that had counted down the days to see them like a kid waiting for Christmas. Amongst the screaming, there were tears and people embracing each other in moments of sheer happiness that they were witnessing My Chemical Romance on stage. In a perfect storm of catharsis, it was an evening of mutual devotion, fierce passion, and an understanding that music can save you. They’ve still got it.