MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE // LIVE REVIEW // ROYAL HOSPITAL KILMAINHAM // DUBLIN
Ominous rain clouds loomed threateningly over Ireland’s capital in the long hours leading up to a highly anticipated event this Tuesday. An event that had been in the making, some might say for over a decade, then only to be cruelly prolonged and delayed further and further due to a swarming global pandemic. Maybe it was the energy or maybe the unquantifiable amounts of love for music being accumulated in Dublin that kept that storm at bay. But nothing could stop the return of My Chemical Romance and legions of their die-hard fans from unleashing frenzy in the west of the city tonight, on Royal Hospital Kilmainham’s grounds.
The result of My Chemical Romance’s achingly long, 11-year hiatus between appearances on the Emerald Isle was that anticipation reached a fever pitch with people travelling the length and breadth of the island to attend on the relatively gloomy day in late May. Taking up a two-night residency at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham’s bowl-like landscape amphitheatre provided the perfect setting for a bombastic yet visceral return to an Irish stage for the New Jersey punk rock outfit.
With much water under the bridge during those 11 years apart, MCR’s timing of their return simply could not be better. With an arsenal of four albums providing the soundtrack to many in attendance’s teenage years, the time has invariably allowed these numbers to mature without ever seeming cliche, novelty or pound-shop-nostalgia provoking. They are as relevant, precise and charming as ever.
Opening the show with their new single ‘The Foundations of Decay’, a brooding post-rock epic, toxic-green haze filled the stage, engulfing much of the first rows. The opening synth bars to the song are truly evocative of the bright yet dystopian synth layers featured heavily on the band’s last album, 2010’s Danger Days, albeit far more sinister. The band gradually built up the lumbering sonic swell to a towering feast of riffs, sharing far more in common with the band’s absolute earliest, rawest recordings.
Within seconds, the band members shared genuine expressions of astonishment as the screams of the 10,000 strong present swelled in anticipation of what promised to be a very memorable evening. Indeed in a goosebump-inducing turn following ‘Foundations’, guitarist Frank Iero’s frantic strumming of the intro chords to the band’s mega-hit single ‘I’m Not Okay’ elicited a roar so loud that the bass bins and hanging PA systems amplifying the band literally struggled to compete. Some cheered enthusiastically and most recited the quirky and revealing lyrics of the infectiously catchy tune word for word. Frank and lead guitarist Ray Toro seemed to reunite themselves on stage, sharing a brotherly hug mid-song, evidently sharing in the pure bliss of their fans and this unbelievable Beatles-like reception before them. Those lining the front rows, some of whom had camped and queued in excess of 30 hours outside the opposing battle walls of Kilmainham to secure their prized spot within ear-shot of their heroes were in tears of joy, bewilderment, and love in equal measure for a band some of whom may have never seen in the flesh before.
As the band paused for a short breather after 3 raucous singalongs, frontman Gerard Way revealed past disappointments with touring routines but how they now found themselves reinvigorated, rejuvenated and visibly ecstatic to be out rediscovering the fun that could be had on the road in MCR. Past pressures on his voice, he revealed, left him anxious and self-conscious, but now he feels unafraid to perform in front of Royalty, even the Queen. Proceeding to play a quick one-two punch of deep cuts from Danger Days, ‘The Kids From Yesterday’ and ‘The Only Hope For Me Is You’. This provided ample opportunity for more choral singalongs for many diehards, who embraced and shared meaningful moments of joy with each other in celebration of the resurrection of old favourites.
As the band went on to indulge in the live rarities of Conventional Weapons material, a curtain came down to reveal a scene of utter carnage behind the band, intricate set dressing reminiscent of a swarm attack on a downtown metro area. While the band drew no attention to this disastrous scene, much of their music’s misanthropic musings and juxtaposing optimistic lyricism found itself perfectly at home amongst the chaos. It would appear easter eggs are plotted across the stage and their performance, from the coded, messaging scrawled on Way’s palms to the haphazard tagging of the kick drum. My Chemical Romance is no stranger to fulfilling the role of a band that fully embraces and executes conceptual themes through their music. Way’s haunting vocoder-laden rambling between songs may well spell out coded messaging of exciting things to come, and was brilliantly used to queue up a thrashing performance of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge classic ‘It’s Not A Fashion Statement, It’s a Fucking Deathwish’.
A remarkable rendition of ‘Teenagers’ ignited the anarchic teenager in us all in unanimous song, and one
of the most joyous highlights of the set, only to be upstaged shortly after by that singular G note ringing on the piano. The instantly recognisable opening of Welcome to The Black Parade vibrated through a glittering sea of phone-cast LED light in the ever-darkening bowl of the Kilmainham Hospital grounds. Pomp and ceremony worthy of Freddie Mercury bring about constant smiles between the band members and an enthralled audience. It is worth noting at this point the grizzled look of My Chemical Romance in 2022 is a far cry from the prim and proper marching band uniform that itched itself in the imaginations of many in the mid-2000s. Now reflecting the humble if distressed aesthetic, MCR performed the mega-hit with every ounce of their being, matching the intensity of their new look whilst remaining every bit as bombastic as its legendary debut performance years ago in London’s Hammersmith Palais in 2006. The band showed absolutely no sign of tiring or boredom with a song that clearly means so much to so many people, completely lost in this moment.
The evening affirmed that the MCR that has endured a 10-year hiatus has managed to return as a fierce, gritty beast, just as relevant as when they initially pounced onto the scene all those years ago. Performing their earliest material brings a re-energized and seemingly perfect revitalisation at this juncture in their career, all the more apparent in the encore of ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’. These revived classics meld effortlessly with new material. If this latest single is anything to go by it is truly exciting to see what they may have in store for us in years to come.