Nostalgia works hard, but My Chemical Romance works harder.
On March 31, the YouTube channel Strange Aeons posted a video titled “A Deep Dive Into the Return of My Chemical Romance.” In a cool 59 minutes and 30 seconds, channel runner Teya unpacks the ideology and symbolism presented in the band’s wardrobe of their 72-show global reunion tour. Citing Tumblr user jetstar, Teya described MCR fans following this tour on sites like Tumblr and Twitter as “sports but for gay people” due to the band’s long-standing relationship with the queer community.
For fans, arguably the most key part of following this tour has been cataloguing frontman Gerard Ways’ eclectic collection of stage outfits. Tragic or controversial women in history were a common theme Teya pointed out, with Way making visual references to figures ranging from Princess Diana to Joan of Arc and even court outfits worn by female followers of Charles Manson.
Critiques of the military were another common theme, with Army green and even hot pants suspected to be military silkies, making repeated appearances. These are similarly not uncommon, with the band making anti-war statements in the past, including theming the music video for “The Ghost of You” after the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.
One of Way’s most unique outfits was worn on May 19 in Milton Keynes. Dubbed “Metaman,” Way wore an all-white suit covered in fake blood with the Meta logo drawn on his forehead, which was covered by a white mask. The look was interpreted to represent the single artwork for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” but it was also interpreted to represent something more anti-capitalist.
“It is pretty blatant to splatter yourself in blood and write a company’s logo on your face,” Teya said.
As with any tour, the stage dressing was designed to . MCR changed the drum heads on tour nightly and tied them directly to Way’s stage outfits. In Tacoma, Wa. on October 3, the drum head read “I want to see you turn into a werewolf” while Way donned a Twilight Team Edward t-shirt. The Twilight shirt is interpreted as a specific reference to that time they were asked to contribute a song to the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, later inspiring the track “Vampire Money” from their 2011 album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.
“Their variety of creatures and vampires did not really align with Twilight’s,” Teya said. “Doing something for Twilight wasn’t really authentic to who they were, wasn’t really what they wanted to do. They were offered exorbitant amounts of money and they still refused to sell out.”
When Way dressed in an office worker uniform on March 14 in Brisbane, the drum head read, “Here comes the airplane.” Teya theorized this was a reference to Way witnessing 9/11.
“In 2001, he was an intern at Cartoon Network living in New York City,” she said. “He said in a 2013 interview, ‘I did see the buildings go down, from I’d say fairly close. It was like being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film. You didn’t believe it. You felt like you were in Independence Day. It made no sense. Your brain couldn’t process it.”
One of the most impactful moments of the video came when Teya dissected MCR’s performance at the 2022 When We Were Young festival. Dressed in their Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge uniforms with old-age SFX makeup, the band only performed the hits without any new material, b-sides or fan favorites. This was the only time they recreated an iconic look or excluded lesser-known songs, as well as their 2022 single “The Foundations of Decay,” from their set list.
“It’s like, ‘this is what we could be doing for decades,’” Teya said. “We could be elderly, watching elderly MCR dress up in their old clothes and play their old songs, and is that what any of us want to be doing: with the glory days of youth behind us, basically admitting that we’re already dead?”
She continued to praise the band for their commitment to healing, as well as their refusal to make their views on the festival unknown or easy to digest.
“It’s so good,” she said. “It’s so uncanny. It’s the way that it forces the audience to look at themselves. It refuses to be comforting and nostalgic and goes for your fucking throats.”
She goes on to explain the significance of bassist Mikey Way being the only one not in uniform or makeup. This is possibly due to his death in the “Ghost of You” music video, after which he is interpreted by some to have become a vampire. If not a direct callback to that music video, it’s certainly a stark reminder of the possibility of a much darker timeline.
“I think it must have been important to them to play this show and then to pull this stunt critiquing the premise of the entire festival,” Teya said. “Because, to them and a lot of others, holding up that era in their lives and their work is – it’s insulting because, honestly, that era was not ideal. That’s clearest I think when we look at Mikey, who’s been open about his life-threatening struggles with addiction and mental health and how these things were exacerbated by a lot of what happened in the early years of MCR. [sic]
I believe Mikey is sober now and is recovered, but there’s a timeline where the band didn’t end MCR in 2014 because they needed to. Because it was bad for them, because it was something that was comfortable and profitable and maybe Mikey didn’t recover in that timeline. [sic] Of course they’d passionately have a problem with a nostalgia-based concert, because they were kind of miserable and their lives were messy back then, and they were heavily commodified by a subculture that wasn’t always kind to them.”
Teya noted MCR was not the only band to bring up issues with the festival. During Paramore’s set, frontwoman Hayley Williams similarly looked back at the early-2000’s emo scene.
“The scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different,” Williams said. “If you were a young woman, if you were a person of color, if you were queer, and that’s really fucked up when you think about it because this was supposed to be the safe place.”
My Chemical Romance closed their set with “Vampire Money,” spreading thousand-dollar bills with vampires on them throughout the crowd. Beyond the apparent protest against the festival, the performance seemed to encapsulate one message throughout the entire tour:
“MCR wants us to know that they are happy and healthy now, and still capable of creating excellent art.”
The band’s reunion tour wrapped up on March 26 in Osaka, Japan. What’s your favorite reunion tour look? Check out the full video below!
All photos used are screenshots from the video unless otherwise stated.