My Chemical Romance feels the love at sold-out Little Caesars Arena

It's been more than 10 years since the rockers last played the Motor City, but MCR made up for lost time at Tuesday's concert.

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

If there were any tears, they were tears of joy. 

My Chemical Romance rekindled its love affair with Metro Detroit fans Tuesday night at a sold-to-the-rafters Little Caesars Arena, the band's first area concert in 11 years and first local stop since regrouping following a 2013 split. 

The time away only made fans feel more, feel louder and feel harder. The crowd of 15,000 was an energetic, enthusiastic, black-clad and tattooed mix of those who may have attended the band's last local concert, a 2011 show at the then-DTE Energy Music Theatre, and those who were perhaps only in elementary school when "Helena" was bombarding the daily countdown on "TRL," when, along with their cohorts in Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance was carving a new path for rock music in the '00s.

A lot has happened in music since, but not necessarily on the rock side of things. And My Chem and Fall Out Boy are perhaps the last two rock bands who were able to Get Huge. (Greta Van Fleet may like a word, but it hasn't been able to amass the arena and stadium-level clout of MCR and FOB — not yet, at least.)

The time away has benefitted My Chemical Romance: the group's hearty, pop-punk inflected sound is back en vogue, even though theirs is a darker blend than the glossy, candy-colored flavor of pop-punk revivalists Olivia Rodrigo and (gulp) Machine Gun Kelly.

And the '00s nostalgia train that has been gaining steam lets loose full-bore with next month's When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas, which is headlined by Paramore and, yep, My Chemical Romance.

Meanwhile, the group's 2004 breakthrough "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" was so ahead of its time in terms of addressing a generation's mental health state of mind that this summer's satire "Not Okay" turned the title phrase as a Gen Z hashtag, but without crediting the guys who made it a rallying cry nearly two decades earlier.  

Fans cheer for the band My Chemical Romance, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI, Sept 13, 2022.

So if the time is right again for My Chemical Romance, Tuesday's concert showed the band is meeting the moment. Lead singer Gerard Way — in the band's downtime, his comic book series "The Umbrella Academy" has generated three streaming seasons on Netflix — looked fresh, healthy and present, dressed in a classic all-white nurse's uniform, complete with hat that he ditched three songs into the group's fiery and emotionally resonant 19-song, 96-minute set. 

He was joined by his little brother Mikey Way, the band's bassist, who has such a cult following that shirts emblazoned with the phrase "Mikey F---ing Way" were for sale at the merch stands, along with guitarists Frank Iero (who hit the stage wearing a Detroit Tigers cap) and Ray Toro. Drummer Jarrod Alexander and an auxiliary musician rounded out the six-member troupe. 

Hard-charging opener "The Foundations of Decay," the band's latest single, kicked off the night, as a backdrop behind the band fell and revealed a cityscape reduced to ruins, befitting the apocalyptic mood of the day. (The Weeknd's stage design on his current tour also depicts a rotting city skyline; must be something in the water.) 

"I'm Not Okay" and its caffeinated blast of raw teen angst rang as urgent as ever, as circle pits swirled on the general admission floor. "Give 'Em Hell, Kid" and "Bury Me in Black," also from 2004's "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," followed, the crowd pumping its fists in the air on Way's command. 

Gerard Way, singer for the band My Chemical Romance, performs at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

It was seven songs into the set before the group touched on "The Black Parade," its 2006 opus, a monumental concept album about death and dying and a high water mark for '00s rock, perhaps the last album to even attempt to scale the heights of Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

The lacerating "House of Wolves" was the first foray into the album, later followed by a three-song suite of "Welcome to the Black Parade" — which generated the night's biggest sing-along and crowd-surfing moments — "Teenagers" and the campy Broadway-tinged "Mama," and later by "Famous Last Words" and the pounding "Sleep."

In addition to directing and channeling the crowd's energy, Way, 45, was also an extremely respectful host, pausing several times to check on the general admission crowd down front, asking fans to take one step back and giving those who needed a chance to leave the pit an opportunity to do so safely. His actions were welcome as we approach the one year anniversary of the Astroworld tragedy, where 10 people died due to a crowd crush at a Travis Scott concert. 

The seismically energetic "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" ripped like a chainsaw, with fans miming their "jazz hands" at the lyrical prompt, and "The World Is Ugly," from 2012's "Conventional Weapons" compilation, received a proper late-show treatment. 

"Vampires Will Never Hurt You," from My Chem's 2002 debut album "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love," kicked off the two-song encore, which was closed out by "Helena," its "so long and goodnight" refrain lending a fitting goodbye to the evening. 

"You made it, we made it," Way told the crowd while introducing "Helena," a reminder that Tuesday's concert was delayed by two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (When the band's reunion outing was originally scheduled to launch in Sept. 2020, Detroit was to be the kickoff of the tour.)

But that's all in the past, and despite the decade elapsed between local appearances, Tuesday's concert didn't come off like a dusty nostalgia play or a time warp. It seemed to arrive right on time.