My Chemical Romance: emo with arena-rock grandeur at Forum

Last night in Inglewood – at its first of five sold-out shows at the Forum – My Chemical Romance took over the arena, lit it up red and claimed it for the vampires of Los Angeles.

The New Jersey band first burst their hearse into the Warped Tour’s hyper-masculine punk-O sphere some 20 years ago, and helped pioneer the sound and aesthetic for the rock subculture that came to be known as emo: melodic, tortured pop-rock undauntedly dives into heartbreak and trauma.

Along with My Chemical Romance, bands like Paramore, The Used and Dashboard Confessional – all set to perform at this month’s sold-out When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas – took over the rock charts from bands just as tortured but more brutal than Korn and Limp Bizkit and became a salve for many millennials emerging in the 2000s. When My Chem announced its break-up in 2013, the news left its fans even more devastated than they’re usually aware of.

Six years later, the band’s one-night-only return to LA’s Shrine Exposition Hall in December 2019 inspired emo kids (and adults) from Europe and South America to camp out in the cold on Jefferson Boulevard — and teased, what could have been was their 2020 reunion tour, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly three years later, the band’s long-awaited return to LA began with a theatrical bang fit for a 2022 arena headliner: lead singer Gerard Way shot off a flamethrower, clad in a vintage cheerleader’s dress.

A rock singer fires a flamethrower on stage

Gerard Way fires a flamethrower at the forum.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

“Get up, cowards!” Way shrieked after a thunderous performance of the band’s first new track in over 8 years, a dirge for an empire entitled “Foundations of Decay”. Original band members Mikey Way (bass) and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero – along with touring drummer Jarrod Alexander and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac – amplified their noodly post-hardcore sound with the fury of ’80s rock virtuosos and ripped through Fan favorites like “I’m Not Fine (I Promise)” and “Helena.”

“This is my favorite room in the whole world,” said Gerard, recalling the band’s 2007 show at the Forum in support of their Queen and Beatles-inspired rock opera, 2006 album The Black Parade – now a certified classic which has since become by acts such as Twenty One Pilots and Lil Nas X.

Flanked by a dystopian set of derelict buildings, a wrecked train and concrete rubble, Way trudged through the rubble in his jubilation uniform. The dress added a touch of whimsy to his otherwise hair-raising arias from the abyss – reminiscent of the minefield that American gender politics represents today – and elicited positive screams from young fans, some with LGBTQ pride flags or badges in Rainbow colors arrived.

In the tradition of their Lodi, NJ, forefathers of the Misfits, My Chem wrestles the most macabre details from America’s tattered social fabric and weaves them into its own fantastical, vampiric lore. That set them apart from the hot-topic buzz band scene when they released their first studio album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, in 2002.

The band’s debut, a collection of Bush-era horror punk songs, addressed not only the general malaise of young punks, but also the macro-level residual trauma of the September 11 attacks on New York City. MCR peppered Tuesday night with several “Bullets” tracks in celebration of its 20th anniversary, including the first recorded song “Skylines and Turnstiles,” which Way wrote with brother Mikey and guitarist Toro after witnessing the collapse of the Twin Towers during a morning drive to Manhattan.

Each Forum show is said to focus on a different era of the band’s career, from their 2002 debut to their final studio album, 2010’s post-apocalyptic Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. However, fans rallied on Tuesday a “Black Parade” highlight, “Teenagers”. The song, which Way cryptically dedicated to Quentin Tarantino, still rings out for those who refuse to live a traditional life as a straight “cog”.[s] in the killing machine.”

“Dark your clothes or strike a violent pose,” fans chanted along with Way. “Maybe they’ll leave you alone, but not me!” My Chemical Romance: emo with arena-rock grandeur at Forum

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