There is something special about witnessing the breakthrough of genre-defining bands, inevitably putting a stamp on your music and, for a lot of people, social influences for a lifetime. But make no mistake, My Chemical Romance’s comeback is no nostalgia act. It feels like the beginning of a new era for the band and their relationship with their fans.
My Chemical Romance, Placebo, Barns Courtney, Cassyette.
Stadium MK. 21 May 2022
Words and Photography: Aggie Anthimidou
Fans started packing Stadium MK early on Saturday’s warm afternoon, for a concert anticipated for 2 1/2 years. Having opened their UK tour with two relatively ‘intimate’ shows at Cornwall’s Eden Project, New Jersey’s band, took over Stadium MK for a 3-night residency.
Unique Cassyette (an artist to watch) opened the day with her eclectic mix of electro-punk rock, while Barns Courtney, supported by thrilling Palaye Royale guitarist Andrew Martin, delivered a powerful live performance further amplified by his stage charisma.
Lengthy introductions aren’t required for the iconic Placebo. With just an hour-long performance, the setlist was dominated by tracks from the band’s latest album, Never Let Me Go, with the addition of a handful of crowd-pleasers. Slave To The Wage, Special K, The Bitter End and Infra-red were all kept for the end of their slot.
I have seen Placebo many times, and there hasn’t been a show where the band hasn’t delivered a beautiful, almost studio-perfect performance. Though the band’s recording direction has been increasingly incorporating the electronic element, their live performance was loyal to the band’s alt-rock roots with Brian Molko’s forever youthful, unaltered, distinctive vocals.
By the time Placebo waved goodbye, the stadium was almost at full capacity. Thirty thousand fans from multiple generations have been ready for this since MCR announced their reunion tour in late 2019.
Gerard Way takes the stage in jeans, a shirt and a cap, almost like a modern-day rock anti-hero. Only on the surface, though, as the power the band has over his fans is monumental. Opening with The Foundations Of Decay, released only days before the tour, it’s a haunting start to the show.
With both melodic and raw vocals, it feels almost like a release, a sound that has been sorely missed and a confirmation that the band hasn’t lost their touch or charisma.
During the 21-long setlist, MCR pleased fans with a set heavy with favourite classics including I’m Not Okay (I Promise), Famous Last Words, Welcome To The Black Parade and Teenagers. There are also surprises such as the first live – well since 2011 – performance of Bulletproof Heart, a song originally titled Trans-Am as Way explains the story behind it.
Before moving to perform Famous Last Words, Way explained how after all this time, it took him a while to get back to live music, prompting him to attend several live Metal shows. Whatever the case, this evening, he owns the stage and his audience. This show witnessed the deep connection the band has with the fans, a connection that was never lost with its original base and one that was won with a new league of followers during the band’s hiatus.
Punk rock delight Vampire Money proved that a band doesn’t need stage gimmicks to get a full stadium moving. A grand stadium show shrinking into an intimate club gig.
As the piano commences the slow march intro of Welcome To The Black Parade, the charged emotion in the stadium was clear. This was a long-anticipated moment, and although MCR have denounced the title ’emo’ in the past, there is no denying that this song is the ultimate emo anthem of a generation.
Way’s impeccable, roaring vocals for encore’s Boy Division made for an explosive, exhilarating ending. “This is our last song for tonight. For us it was worth the fucking wait, and all the heartache and all the pain that came with it,” Gerard Way confesses as MCR bid goodnight with Helena.
Judging from MCR’s new league of adoring fans this past weekend, there is no space for doubt; this is a band that built a style that continues to be relevant and relatable.
Although this is announced as only a reunion tour for the time being, three packed stadium nights hopefully predict otherwise. And we are here for it.
My Chemical Romance Setlist
1. The Foundations of Decay
2. I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
3. Give ‘Em Hell, Kid
4. Make Room!!!!
6. Bulletproof Heart
7. This Is How I Disappear
8. You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us In Prison
9. Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
10. Famous Last Words
11. Surrender the Night
14. Our Lady of Sorrows
15. Vampire Money
16. Thank You for the Venom
18. Welcome to the Black Parade
20. Boy Division 
1. Forever Chemicals
2. Kitty Litter
3. Beautiful James
6. One of a Kind
7. Surrounded by Spies
8. Try Better Next Time
9. For What It’s Worth
10. Slave to the Wage
11. Special K
12. The Bitter End