Review and Photos by Deborah Draisin
My Chemical Romance, Thursday, and the Homeless Gospel Choir
The Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey - September 20, 2022
There are some experiences which can permanently change the trajectory of one’s life. One, for me, occurred on February 23, 2007. I had taken my son Damien to see his very first live concert, Rise Against and My Chemical Romance, at Nassau Coliseum, at the commencement of MCR’s mammoth tour in support of “The Black Parade”, which had dropped four months prior. I thought Rise Against sounded great, and were an indicator of what was to come.
Damien was SO EXCITED, explaining everything that I needed to know: “See, at first they’re The Black Parade, but now they’re just My Chemical Romance again” in reference to the twin sets that the band was performing at that time - one as the fictional band Black Parade, one as themselves. In those days, frontman Gerard Way entered the stage on a gurney, with cropped, platinum hair and stark white and black makeup, donning a hospital gown, to embody the dying man at the forefront of the album (not a lot has changed since then, to be honest).
In familiarizing myself with the album, I realized that it was really resonating with me, and I learned why shortly thereafter: it was about a man dying young from cancer – exactly what had happened to my husband (and Damien’s father) almost exactly two years prior. Upon learning that the (at that time five) men who comprised this band were also some of the sweetest dudes in the industry, I was sold. Over the years, I’ve been graced with the opportunity to interview the members of My Chem for their side projects, and review and photograph a number of My Chem shows. They outdo themselves every time, and this tour would be no exception.
I had inadvertently attended their last show, at Bamboozle on May 19, 2012, there to see Blink-182 (later pulled off the bill) and the Foo Fighters. When the band came to a very abrupt end barely a year later, on March 22, 2013, it was a shock – and a heartbreaker. Many titans of music described the loss in such words as “Rock just got a lot more boring.” Although each member of the band would go on to do fascinating work. Gerard’s comic series “The Umbrella Academy” continues to flourish in the comics world and would go on to become a Netflix hit series. Second guitarist Frank Iero would release several “Frank Iero and the…” albums, while lead guitarist Ray Toro would go onto production, eventually releasing an album of his own, “Remember the Laughter.” And Gerard’s brother, bassist Mikey Way, would dabble in comics, as well as put out a project with Sleep Station’s Dave Debiak entitled Electric Century. The gaping hole left in My Chem’s wake could never quite be filled.
And then, despite years’ worth of fervent denials, the band reconvened for a one-night only gig at The Shrine in Los Angeles, announcing a full tour shortly afterward. But covid-19 happened, sidelining the tour for two more years. Amazingly, the band survived the hiatus and the tour began, MCR keeping things interesting by shifting the setlist, the drum head messages, and Gerard’s custom-designed costumes nightly. Each member had also designed some rare mystery tee shirts (which have been selling out in the first five minutes of doors being open, as fans try to collect them all). If there had been any doubt that the enthusiasm for their return would be high, they’ve since gotten their answer.
When My Chem finally made their triumphant return to the scene of the crime, Jersey Beat knew we had to be there.To see Deborah Draisin's gallery of photos from this concert, click here.
First up was the Homeless Gospel Choir, which usually comprises just one man, Derek Zanetti (who introduces every song with “This is a protest song.”) But this is a full-fledged traveling super-troupe of sorts, consisting of Mixtapes' guitarist Maura Weaver, Boys’ Megan Schroer on bass, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club’s guitarist Matt Miller, and Belly Boys’ Craig Luckman on drums, in support of HGC’s latest release, “Fourth Dimension Intervention.”
The band puts on a fun, energetic set, which easily engaged the restless My Chem crowd. As a little reward for their fervor, Frank Iero came out and performed “Crazy” with them, something which he does quite a bit when the two hit the road together. The Homeless Gospel Choir will be on the West Coast all throughout the month of October, so if you’re in that neck of the woods, definitely check them out, they’ll leave you smiling.
Next up were local heroes and arguable forefathers of modern screamo, Thursday. This band was integral to getting baby Jersey bands like My Chem off the ground. Frontman Geoff Rickly actually produced My Chem’s first album, “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”, at Nada Studios in 2002. Thursday is a seasoned band who carries an audience like a pro. Comprised of Geoff, guitarists Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla, bassist Tim Payne on bass, and drummer Tucker Rule, this band was at the forefront of the post-hardcore scene in the early 2000s, forming at Rutgers-New Brunswick. The band is still going strong today after a five year hiatus which ended in 2016. Bangers like “Understanding in a Car Crash” and “Jet Black New Year” – a second treat for My Chem fans as Gerard, who originally guested on the track, came out and performed with the band - kept the crowd hyped up and ready for the main event. Thursday are some of Jersey’s finest, and always worth going to see – they’re a great time. (To read Jersey Beat editor Jim Testa's interview with Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly prior to the tour, click here...) Also keep your eyes and ears open for the super group just formed with members of MCR, Thursday, Coheed and Cambria, and Circa Survive, called L.S. Dunes, hitting the Jersey streets this coming November.
Next up was time for about ten minutes of swarm sounds, My Chem’s latest opening track of sorts, interrupted only by the fans’ inexplicable burst of applause for “vacuum guy”, a member of the crew who has become a bit of a celebrity this tour run.
When the red velvet curtain dropped, the palpable excitement was near deafening. The energy for this show was off the charts, and the band responded in kind. The band, fronted by Gerard in a bat costume (the drum head appropriately reading “Off Leash”) ripped through their standard opener, the newly dropped “Foundations of Decay”, and followed with several of their usual hits, like “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” “Helena”, “Welcome To The Black Parade,” and “Famous Last Words.” They also tossed in some deeper "Revenge" cuts, such as “Cemetery Drive,” “Thank You For The Venom,” and “Give ‘em Hell, Kid,” along with some "Bullets" archives, “This Is the Best Day Ever”, and “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”. Fan favorites “Vampire Money” (from "Danger Days") and “The World Is Ugly” (from "Conventional Weapons") catered to all crowds.
A few brand new spins also happened: “I Never Told You What I Did For A Living”, from "Revenge,"" was played for the very first time this tour, and encore “Demolition Lovers” was played for the first time since 2004, a delightful surprise sounding every bit as gorgeous as it did back then. The band closed their set with their personal favorite song, “The Kids From Yesterday" (off "Danger Days,") an absolutely beautiful tribute to the passing of time as a band.
All in all, a jaw-dropping set from a band back from the dead who has definitely still got it. Gerard sounds incredible, and Ray, Frank, and Mikey have definitely taken their musical skills to the next level. What their future holds after this tour wraps up is anyone’s guess, as the band has remains mum and is refusing all press. But one can only hope that there is more to come.
Here are the current dates for the remainder of this tour.
And here is where you can stream all of their music, including "Foundations" and the unreleased "Conventional Weapons.""
Check in with the Homeless Gospel Choir here. And with Thursday here.
To see Deborah Draisin's gallery of photos from this concert, click here.