Because this is, as the title says, "unabridged" and, as a result, very long, I have added sub-heads that will allow you to skim ahead. Enjoy!
For a more concise review, check out my MyChemicalRomance.com Fan Report.
Aragon Entertainment Center for our scheduled meet-and-greet with MCR at 4:30 p.m..
When we got there, the line was hidden around the corner of the building away from the main sidewalk, so we never got to see just how big it was (we would later when we got in it, and I'll say now "HOLY SHIT!"). My two friends and I, and about 20 others who had won a meet-and-greet through the local radio station, Q101, lined up in the rain immediately outside the venue's front doors and waited to be let in.
The inside the Aragon has a mosaic feel in design. It has dramatic teal and gold pillars at the inside entrance and side inlays that look as if they should hold fountains. Needless to say, we were visually distracted when we went inside, even just in the lobby, where we spoke to the very friendly Warner Brothers rep who had helped us when we met the band last time we were in Chicago.
As we waited there, we met two girls from Columbia, South America who were here following parts of My Chemical Romance's tour. They had previously done the "Road Reporter" job that I was about to do for the show that night and gave me some tips about it and gushed about just how fun it was for them. They told me they had 5 more shows left to see on MCR's current tour! Now, THAT is dedication!
Eventually, Mehdi, who does security for MCR, came out and briefed us on our expected conduct for the... SOUNDCHECK?!!?!
I had NO IDEA I was about the see MCR soundcheck! I thought I was going to meet them and that would be that. Since I had not been informed, I felt I were in the wrong place and was about to get more than I actually had won, but I was reassured, "No, you're with us" as we walked through the second entrance doors and toward the ornate steps that would lead to the Aragon's show room.
The members of MCR shuffled about the stage in their day-clothes, talking to one another calmly, critiquing the sound and light set-up early in preparation for the main event to take place late that night.
During soundcheck in Chicago, they played:
"Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)"
"Hang 'Em High"
"Our Lady of Sorrows"
I grinned the entire time, hardly able to believe what I was seeing in such an intimate environment. Not only was it amazing to see them play with so few other people in the room, but it was also eye-opening to watch their pre-show set-up process. I can recall many times when I have pressed my ear firmly to doors of venues from outside to hear what's going on within when bands soundcheck. It was nice to actually see it this time.
As they played, the group of fans stood by the soundboard in the half-lit room, which created a haze, making it hard for us to see the faces of the guys, which may have been for the best because it was such an awkward way of interacting with the music for fans. We were carefully watched and didn't really know what to do with ourselves. Despite how much "Our Lady of Sorrows" made me want to thrash and destroy things, I held still and simply clutched my heart, sang along very quietly and tapped my foot in complete ecstasy. I felt a tightening in my chest as I watched them, overwhelmed by the emotion from disbelief at my own luck as I soaked it all in.
The guys talked between songs, said hello to us and thanked us for coming out, mentioned tiny sound adjustments that needed to be made and James Dewees joked quietly over his mic, making the guys laugh several times.
Before I knew it, they had put down their instruments and Gerard and Mikey were on the floor where we were, talking to a guest on the right side of the room, and Ray was on the other side, at the edge of the barricade, looking at a #SINGItForJapan t-shirt.
We were lined up in groups to meet and take pictures with the band as I received a welcoming hug from and spoke to the ever-helpful and extremely nice Lauren about our travel to Chicago and excitement for the show.
Gerard was the first to greet us. He shook all of our hands and greeted us. Hilariously, when he got to my friend Wes, he said he was "getting good vibes from this guy [Wes]." -- Hilarious.
When Mikey shook my hand, he had said, "Hi, I'm Mikey, but it came out sounding like he said "Hi, Mikey," which made me laugh.
Then Frank came and was grinning as he shook my hand. He mumbled something like "Nice to see you," but I didn't catch it fully.
When Ray hobbled up, I shook his hand and asked him if he were okay to which he confidently replied, "yes," holding his head high as he took his place at my side for the picture.
I looked over at the guys, who had moved to the side for the most part to find Gerard frowning at my boots. He backed up a couple steps and looked at them, then said, "Wait. I know those boots!"
"Yes!" I said with an excited smile. "I wore them last time I met you guys. Ray," I gestured toward him, "took a picture then."
Frank, who was still standing in front of me chimed in then, "Yeah! You're the Road Reporter, right?"
"I am," I confirmed and they all nodded or muttered something in realization.
Frank then jumped in between my friend and I, saying, "I'm going to squeeze in here, guys" and put his arms around us for the photo.
We took the picture and the guys began to walk away when I remembered that I swore I would ask Mikey about the time he went on the #MCRchat, a Twitter-based chat I created.
"Oh, Mikey!" I said last-minute as he walked by. He and Gerard both stopped and looked at me curiously. "I host #MCRchat on Twitter, and I promised my followers I would ask if you remember the time you invaded the chat."
"I do!" Mikey said with a grin and wide eyes.
Frank added, "I remember that night. It was at the [some location I can't remember that starts with a 'C']."
Mikey: "Yeah, I remember!"
I told him that we still talk about it and call it MikeyGate, which made Frank, Gerard and Mikey repeat back the word "MikeyGate" and laugh. "You call it Mikeygate?" Mikey had repeated back to me with a laugh, "Guys, they call it MikeyGate," he then told the others.
As they walked away, I heard Mikey trying to explain how #MCRchat works. Frank said something like "I don't even know how to do that," as Mikey explained it, oddly, as something we do "through text," which he pantomimed using his thumbs. Haha! I guess we know now that Mikey obviously uses Twitter through his phone.
The band made their way back across the floor as we waited to be lead back outside to get in line. As they walked to the other side of the room, Ray called to me, "I want to see that report!" I gave him a thumbs up and called back to them that I would see them again in Cleveland. Frank told me "No fun allowed tonight" jokingly and said he'd see us again in Cleveland.
THE LINE/VENUE STAFF FROM HELL
We left the meet-and-greet filled with absolute joy and rounded the corner to finally see the massive line, which crossed two filthy side lots of the building, went down a short block beside it, wrapped around the corner of the road and stretched blocks after that. We ended up in the middle of the first block of the line past the two lots, and I met a ton of fans I had met online on my way there.
It was really cool to finally put faces and voices with usernames, and everyone was very nice. Afterward, I heard from many that other fans weren't so nice once they got inside so I was grateful that everyone I met (Shyla, Tiffany, Olivia, Kira and a couple others whose names I did not get) were sweet.
Not so friendly, however, were the security guards for the venue. Post-concert, I have seen many complaints about just how vile they were, and my friends and I, despite being perfectly polite and doing as we were told, did not survive their wrath. I got a door slammed in my face by the huffy woman at the guestlist door even though I was on the list and there to pick up my photo pass, pushed out of the photo pit, despite my pass later, and my friend got threatened.
Later, I heard stories about the security outside when kids were waiting by the busses to meet MCR telling them things like "Why would they want to meet you?" and fabricating that the band wouldn't come out because they were "exhausted." I was later reassured that none of that had anything to do with MCR's camp. So, I hope no fans were hurt by it or took it to heart.
Personally, I don't think I'll be attending another show at The Aragon unless the staff there receives a SERIOUS attitude adjustment.
When we finally got inside, we were about 20 or 30 rows back from the stage on Frank's side. We knew we would eventually move to a different spot in the crowd, so we didn't get too comfortable, but we allowed ourselves to enjoy a fairly relaxed and unblocked view of The Architects' and Neon Trees' sets.
The Architects, who played first are friends of My Chemical Romance's and signed to MCR guitarist Frank Iero's Skeleton Crew record label. They brought the gravel-voiced intensity of melodic punk music to the audience. Particularly crowd-capturing songs included "Bastards At The Gate," which singer/guitarist Brandon Phillips introduced as being "the best kind of song about the worst kind of people" and "Daddy Wore Black," about - unsurprisingly - the father of the three Phillips brothers in the band. Sonically, The Architects were highly impressive and a great first opener for the show.
Neon Trees are a band about which I had heard much hype, but to whom I had paid little attention before the show. However, from even the first song of their set, I knew I would appreciate them. I saw in their performance the same kind of exited spark My Chemical Romance themselves exude. Singer Tyler Glenn, leather and leopard clad, is a true showman. He pushes the audience's boundaries sexually and drops his mic often to go into elaborate routines of dance, which include high-kicks and "Thriller" steps. Even when he ended up lying on the floor, he could make the crowd go wild. A+ on their performance. I would love to see them again.
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
After Neon Trees' set finished, my friends went to find a more comfortable place in the crowd and I made my way to the photo pit, where I had to stand at the side and wait for the pushy security guard I had mentioned earlier to let me in. By the time I got in, all the other photographers had been let through and had taken their various stances in preparation for the performance's starting.
I met a couple more people along the barricade and spoke to one of the professional photographers, who gave me a couple tips and we both complained about how high up the stage was and how hard it would, therefore, be to get good shots, but I was ready to try my hardest!
Because I was taking pictures, I had to compose myself for the songs I was allowed to shoot: "Na Na Na...," "Give 'Em Hell, Kid" and "Planetary (GO!)." I still nodded my head, sang along and tapped my foot, but by some miracle, I avoided thrashing about and flipping my shit.
As I exited the photo pit, they started playing "Hang 'Em High," and I finally unleashed, raising my arms as I joyously sang along while making my way back into the crowd. I walked all the way along the stage-left side of the room searching for somewhere the crowd opened up and I could slip in, but it was compressed all the way to the very back of the room (mind you, the capacity is 4,500 here, sold out and the majority of the people were on the floor, not the balcony).
I finally found a couple gaps where some older fans and parents were standing and tried to squirm my way up through the crowd while they were still playing "Hang 'Em High," but I quickly realized that the closer I got, the harder it was to breathe and that I would never get much closer than just in front of the soundboard, so I went back to a more open space beside the soundboard to watch where I didn't feel light-headed.
No matter where one went in the crowd, it was sweltering hot with absolutely no relief to be found. Even where I was with few people moving besides myself, it was suffocating. I can only imagine how fans up front or in the middle must have felt. I saw evidence of the overwhelming pressure, violence and heat everywhere I turned. I've never seen so many fans crying or sitting down at an MCR show-- and not because they're overwhelmed by the power of the music, but because they were sick or injured.
Still, I couldn't stop myself from jumping and moving my way through the next 6 songs for which I stayed in my spot. "The Only Hope for Me Is You" and "Summertime" came as slow and welcome relief between bangers like "Vampire Money," "House of Wolves" and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)."
The songs I got to see the band play from up there were my favorites of the night. Gerard cryptically sing-songed: "One day our sun is gonna die. One day our sun is gonna die... Until then. Until then, we walk the night," which was the introduction for "Vampires Will Never Hurt You!" I remember covering my mouth in shock and grinning. "Vampires..." was the second song I ever discovered by MCR and is really what kind of solidified my love for them, so it has a very special place in my heart. Seeing it live is always amazing.
They also closed the entire show with "Bulletproof Heart," which may very well be my favorite song from Danger Days.... It's the perfect live song. I can't imagine any better way they could have ended the set.
As they exited, I noticed Ray's injured foot again as he walked off last, more slowly than the rest, and the crowd roared for him. It was a very touching moment as Toro grinned.
It's one of the images I'll always keep from the show.
Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
Give 'Em Hell, Kid
Hang 'Em High
The Only Hope For Me Is You
House of Wolves
I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
Welcome To The Black Parade
Vampires Will Never Hurt You
Keep an eye out for my review of the Cleveland show!