My Chemical Romance brings the emo out of Oakland

Wednesday, also known as “hump day”, is a day to get ready for the rest of the week. October 5th, 2022 was not a typical Wednesday: it was the day My Chemical Romance returned to Oakland, California after over 10 years! But, before we talk about them, let’s start from the beginning…

It was a cold night in Oakland.

Fans were excited as they entered the Oakland Arena grounds. When you walked in past the gate, you saw many fans in emo-“ish” clothing; it was very nostalgic and appropriate for the night. The fans were wearing black makeup, black eyeshadow, My Chemical Romance T-shirts, Vans shoes and most had dyed hair styles. The pop punk scene was still very much alive and well. 

Brooklyn punk rock band Surfbort opened the night. As soon as they started playing, it reminded us of the great garage punk sounds from the Tony Hawk ProSkater soundtracks. Surfbort would fit right in. Vocalist Dani Miller and her five bandmates rocked the stage as if it was the last night of their lives. There was so much raw emotion from everyone — especially Miller. She would often walk towards the front of the stage, onto the speakers and touch the crowd. She was very engaging and personal to the fans. In their 30-minute set, the band played their hits, “Les Be in Love”, “Big Star” and “FML.” In the middle of their final song, the PA sound was cut, but it didn’t matter, as they continued playing. They thanked the fans and walked offstage. They definitely set the vibe for the rest of the night.

Up next came Taking Back Sunday, who many fans love, seeing as they came into the music scene around the same general time as My Chemical Romance. 2002 was a special year, as Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends album was released alongside My Chemical Romance’s I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love… a thrashing start to the emo / ska / scene years, leading ultimately to the pair’s Louder Now and The Black Parade masterpieces in 2006, respectively.

These two bands know each other well, touring together throughout the years.

Even though their set was only 30 minutes, Taking Back Sunday made the most of their time. Vocalist Adam Lazzara played the role of emcee and host, as he talked to the fans and encouraged them to sing along. They opened their set with “What’s It Feels Like to Be A Ghost”, which included great melodies and guitar riffs. The fans went crazy when they played more hit songs, like “A Decade Under the Influence“, “Cute Without the E” and “MakeDamnSure”. Just like Miller, Lazzara got the crowd ready for the headliner.

As soon as Taking Back Sunday left the stage, fans left their seats to grab drinks and merchandise. 20 minutes went by before it was time for the legendary emo-punk band to light up the night!

When the house lights dimmed, the fans were screaming, “M-C-R! M-C-R!”

Seconds later, the band walked onstage. Vocalist Gerard Way was the last to walk on and the fans roared! The band started off with their new single “The Foundations of Decay”, which has been the only consistent song from their tour setlist. The remaining songs of each tour stop have all been different, which is a breath of fresh air, since most artists play the same set of songs at each venue. 

The next two songs were fan-favorites: “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” and “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid”. Many fans in the arena, especially in the pit, were raising their hands and dancing, moshing along as best they could. It was awesome to see a small circle pit with fans pushing each other like it was Warped Tour. 

In the middle of their set, Way looked around at the audience and said, “You guys are really packed in! I see lots of flesh… it’s very fleshy out there.” He was happy to see not only thousands of fans in a large arena, but also everyone involved in the show and paying attention. 

Before My Chemical Romance played “The World is Ugly”, Way dedicated the song to their friends, who recently lost their dog Walter. On the next song, lead guitarist Ray Toro played the beginning riff to “Thank You for the Venom” and the fans went crazy again. Some fans were moving their hands around as if they were playing an electric guitar or the drums; others were rocking their heads back-and-forth. 

Halfway through the 21-song set, MCR played the opening piano notes to “Welcome to the Black Parade”.

Way pointed the mic to the crowd to help him sing it. Everyone in the arena sang the beginning verse to the hit song and it was amazing! It was almost all a cappella! They continued to perform hits, including “Teenagers”, “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W”, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Famous Last Words”. 

Not a single person sat in their seat during MCR’s set. Fans wanted more, even though they were prepared for an encore. Everyone inside the arena took their phones out to record “Helena”, singing along. Before finishing the night with “The Kids from Yesterday”, Way wanted the fans to know it was one of their bodyguard’s birthday. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday”, which was unexpected, but badass. Way thanked the fans for coming out and the band left the stage. 

It was an amazing night! It had been over 15 years since the last time I saw My Chemical Romance live and I’m still not okay. 

Photography by Arik Ruiz

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