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My Chemical Romance in Manchester, 2007: The Tour That Defined Me

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Sometimes, you see a band before anyone else in a dimly lit club or pub on the edge of something special. Sometimes you see them when they are near the end of their journey, trying to recapture the magic that made them so unmissable in the first place. But sometimes, just sometimes, you find yourself in that sweet spot. The place where a band are at the absolute height of their powers. Near untouchable, capable of producing a performance that feels almost godlike. A moment in time that you know you will talk about forever, and you always feel fortunate that you got to be there.

My Chemical Romance. March 24th 2007. MEN Arena, Manchester. That was my moment.

In my musical journey of discovery, I went through stages of total infatuation with one particular band at a time. At age 10, it was Good Charlotte, spinning The Young And The Hopeless on my mint green Sony Walkman so many times I’m surprised the CD still works. When I was 12, it was Green Day, posting cryptic lyrics from American Idiot album tracks as my status on MSN to the confusion of my school friends. By the time I was 14, My Chemical Romance dominated my time. From first hearing “I’m Not Okay ( I Promise)” on somebody’s Bebo profile to seeing the premiere of “Welcome To The Black Parade” on MTV2, I was hook, line and sinker for those New Jersey boys from the moment I set eyes upon them.

Of these three bands that I found myself loving more than any other, MCR was the first one I saw live. I remember seeing the tour poster whilst flicking through Kerrang and my heart skipping a beat; the closest date to me was in Manchester on a Saturday. I didn’t have many friends who were into the music that I was into, but I did have my Dad. Raising me on a steady diet of Iron Maiden, Mötorhead and Alice Cooper, the likes of “Helena” and “This Is How I Disappear” were outside his wheelhouse. But he persevered, found the elements he liked and agreed to make a weekend of it with me. 13 years on after his passing, I am so grateful that he did, and he was there with me for such a defining moment.

Now despite them being on magazine covers the world over and picking up awards left, right and centre, I had never really thought about the size that MCR were in 2007. You’re wrapped up in your own world at that age, focused solely on your interests and how they affect you and only you. But stepping into the MEN Arena and seeing 21,000 people waiting patiently for the band they also considered their favourite hit me like a tonne of bricks. That I wasn’t the only one out there who felt this way. A crazy way to think now, considering their cultural impact, but back then, as a naive teenager, it made me realise how vast this community was.

Before the main event, Thursday took to the stage. Only after the performance did I learn of how close friends, neighbours and collaborators the band were with My Chemical Romance, with Geoff Rickly famously producing the band’s debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. But hearing the likes of “Jet Black New Year”, “Understanding In A Car Crash”, and “At This Velocity” live for the very first time felt like I had uncovered one of the scene’s best-kept secrets. The intense control of a crowd this massive, the size of the songs that they were delivering and the evident love and gratitude to even get to play a show like this, are all things that explain why all these years later, they are still such an influential band for so many.

By the time this show rolled around, The Black Parade as an album had been out for just under six months. I still remember rushing to my local record store, paying for it with cold hard cash and rushing even faster back home to listen for the first time on my CD player, a tradition that feels even more ancient now than it actually is. The dark, grand, ambitious story of making one’s way to the afterlife and seeing the memories of life just lived passing by along the way, the scope and sentiment had already weaved its way into the scene history books at such an early stage by the time the band were touring it. And the only way to celebrate such a cultural explosion was to perform it in full.

So from the moment that Gerard Way was wheeled out on a hospital bed, face as pale as fog, and he uttered the immortal words, “Now come one, come all, to this tragic affair”, that is precisely what they did. And from the moment that he ripped away his gown to reveal that iconic drummer boy uniform, reached for the skies as the curtain fell around him and felt the sheer force of his bandmates roaring into life as the dramatically downtrodden bridge of “The End” rang from wall to wall, my eyes were transfixed on that enchanting man for the next two hours.

Next came the frantic “Dead!” sending the floor below me and my Dad in the seats into a mesh of bodies bouncing off each other, and the mayhem never seemed to slow from there. “The Sharpest Lives” felt like a panic attack on a theatrical scale, “House Of Wolves” as manic as it was macabre, and the fire that accompanied “Mama” so vast that you could feel it scorching your bones from the back of the room.

In contrast, “I Don’t Love You” felt more unbelievably heart-wrenching than on record, “Disenchanted” forced a few tears to tattoo my pyro-warmed cheeks and “Cancer” was met with the sort of beautifully devastating choral response from the crowd that it sticks with you for the rest of your life. I screamed, sang, cried, danced and lost myself in every inch of the drama like it was the last thing I would ever do. My Dad watched on quietly, appreciating seeing a band have such an effect on me. By the time “Famous Last Words” closed things out in fittingly euphoric fashion, I was drained.

But this was only half-time.

Leaving the stage and bidding adieu as The Black Parade but then coming back out in their regular jeans and jackets and introducing themselves as My Chemical Romance, the second half of the spectacle began. “It’s Not A Fashion Statement, It’s A Fucking Deathwish”, “Cemetery Drive”, “Thank You For The Venom”, and “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison”, they were all here and played with the ferocity and force of a band performing in their friends’ basement on the weekend let alone an international arena stage. Separating their creations, and playing two different versions of themselves in just one show, is something I have never seen anybody else do since. A genius move and one that took an already classic show to an entirely new level of brilliance.

16 years on, and I was lucky enough to see My Chemical Romance twice on their recent reunion run. The first was at their first UK show in 11 years, with 6000 others at The Eden Project, and the second was with 25000 at Warrington’s Victory Park. Both times they were just as savage, sassy and stunning as when I first saw them. But something about that night in Manchester will always feel different. It could be because it was one of only a handful of shows me and my Dad got to go to before he passed away. It could be because it was the first time I got to express my passion for this music with like-minded people, something which is now standard practice in my life.

Or maybe it’s simply because My Chemical Romance made me feel like anything was possible, and spending a couple of hours in the presence of something that makes you feel that way is what life is all about. I know I wouldn’t be the person, or in the position, I am today without moments like that, and to know that a whole new generation of kids gets to go through such life-shaping, heart-stopping, awe-inspiring moments again is something truly extraordinary.


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