“I’ve been looking forward to this all tour,” said Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance before performing “This Is the Best Day Ever” with Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly, Sept. 20 at the Prudential Center in Newark. Thursday, from New Brunswick, was one of the biggest supporters of MCR (which came together in Essex County) in the band’s early days, and Rickly produced the band’s debut album, 2002’s I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
“The band Thursday,” continued Way, “means a hell of a lot to us, as I know it means a hell of a lot to New Jersey, and we love those guys so much, and I could go on a big long story. But instead, we’re just gonna say we love you guys and we love you, Geoff, and come out here and do this fucking song with us that you taught me how to sing in the studio, ’cause I didn’t know anything about dynamics.”
It’s hard to believe that Way — who dressed in an all-black outfit, including a cape, at this concert — didn’t know anything about dynamics at any point in his career, because he is simply one of the most dynamic rock musicians of his generations, merging the playful theatricality of Freddie Mercury with the raw emotion of the emo movement, a big, powerful voice, and a healthy experimental streak as well. (At the Prudential Center, he used a device located at the front of the stage to manipulate his voice and add strange and sometimes eerie sound effects to the band’s set, between songs.)
After achieving great success, both commercially and critically, in the ’00s, MCR broke up in 2013 and then reunited in late 2019. A two-night stand scheduled for September 2020 at the Prudential Center — which MCR christened by opening for Bon Jovi at the venue’s first concert, in 2007 — was delayed, by the pandemic, to September of 2021, and then pushed back again to this September.
“We appreciate you sticking around,” Way said, “and love to all the people out there who lost somebody during that time, that couldn’t be here tonight.”
The band’s lineup pretty much picks up from where they left off in 2013, with Way, his brother Mikey on bass, the formidable guitar team of Ray Toro and Frank Iero, and drummer Jarrod Alexander joined by a new keyboardist, Jamie Muhoberac. They have released one song since reuniting, the sprawling, anthemic “Foundations of Decay,” and opened the concert with it, elongating its static-y intro to 13 minutes of unrelenting noise as the capacity crowd grew increasingly anxious for the band to appear.
The next song was the upbeat, almost Ramones-y “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).” This was a pattern that was repeated often throughout the show, with the band stretching out into musically adventurous and emotionally compelling territory — or breaking character totally, such as in the klezmer-flavored “Mama” and the uncharacteristically bouncy “Teenagers,” performed together in the middle of the set — though a tight, driving pop-punk song such as such as “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” or “Vampire Money” was usually just around the corner.
This was the first New Jersey show of the reunion tour, and before performing “Thank You for the Venom,” Way, who now lives in Los Angeles, mentioned that he hadn’t been in the state for a long time. “I really want to go back up to Belleville and just take a drive around,” he said. “I haven’t seen it in so long.”
Perhaps being back in New Jersey, and thinking about the early days, inspired the band to start the encores with “Demolition Lovers,” which is from I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and hadn’t been performed in concert by them since 2004 (according to setlist.fm).
Thursday, like My Chemical Romance, hasn’t released a studio album in a while — their last was No Devolución in 2011. But though they went on hiatus in 2013, they have been playing together occasionally since 2016.
Rickly introduced “War all the Time” as a “song about growing up in New Jersey, and dedicated “Cross Out the Eyes” to “anybody who’s been with either of these bands for the last 20 years.” He also brought out Anthony Green to sing on “Understanding in a Car Crash,” and Gerard Way — to the crowd’s absolute delight — on “Jet Black New Year,” which Way had sung on, on Thursday’s 2002 EP, Five Stories Falling.
In an August interview with Jim Testa for NJArts.net, Rickly talked about how he has changed his live vocal style over the years, to incorporate more singing and less screaming. “These days, I try and balance it a little more where I actually try and save enough energy to sing the songs in a fashion that’s at least somewhat musical and like the record in some way,” he said. “I pour myself into it a little more emotionally and a little bit less physically, because I am a little older.”
I definitely noticed the difference at the Prudential Center, and think his new style makes Thursday better than ever.
I attended only the first show of the two-night stand (which also featured opening sets by the band Homeless Gospel Choir), Sept. 20. But I looked at the setlist for the second night, Sept. 21, and was happy to see that My Chemical Romance’s final encore was “My Way,” the ultimate anthem of triumph of doing something unconventional in life and achieving great success, as MCR has done. Their version has less to do with the Frank Sinatra hit than with the notorious Sid Vicious cover, but it’s still a lot of fun, and here is a video of it from Sept. 21 (start at 1:12 to see the song only), followed by three videos from Sept. 20:
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