When My Chemical Romance welcomed its fans to “The Black Parade” more than four months ago, it had no idea how many would actually attend.
Nevertheless, frontman Gerard Way says the New Jersey modern rock quintet “expected this record to be well-received. But we thought it was gonna take a little time to connect on such a huge level, especially with our older fan base.”
The connection was more immediate than that. Ballyhooed as one of the best albums of 2006 by the music press — the best, according to Blender magazine — “The Black Parade” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and has sold about 900,000 copies so far in the United States. The song “Welcome to the Black Parade” was a major hit at mainstream and alternative rock stations, and the new single, “Famous Last Words,” has been similarly well-received.
Not surprisingly, Way and his bandmates consider the album “a dream come true,” and they’re pleased — if a bit, well, surprised — at how well it’s been embraced.
“I think there was just enough momentum going into this album,” notes Way, 29, referring to the platinum sales for MCR’s previous album, 2004’s platinum “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” “I think we were in the perfect spot to make the record we did.
“But I think we had a lot to prove, too. There were a lot of skeptics, ’cause when you have a record (‘Three Cheers ...’) that you don’t expect to get really big and it does, there’s, like, a knee-jerk reaction and people get ... suspicious or something. It gets big and they didn’t expect it, and they’re like, ‘Whoa ...’
“So I think we were in a perfect spot to really surprise people with this album.”
MCR threw more than just musical change-ups at its fans — though the epic soundscape of “The Black Parade” spoke to the group’s creative ambition this time out. But Way, a former comic book artist who formed the band in 2001, shocked the faithful by dying his hair platinum and dubbing himself The Patient, creating “a character that people could put themselves in and really sympathize with.” And while he found the exercise to be “very freeing, very liberating,” he also acknowledges that it made some of the band’s fans angry.
“I think that’s awesome,” he says. “It’s supposed to p--- people off.”
MCR also has confused some folks by adopting the alter ego of The Black Parade — a entirely separate band, comprised of the same players, that dresses in military or marching band-style uniforms. Way refers to it as a dramatic “device” that adds to the story of the album, but he says it’s also a reaction to the backlash the band experienced after “Three Cheers ...”
“We had, in a lot of different ways, become a different band while we were making (‘The Black Parade’), so we fi gured we’d just kind of personify that,” he explains.
“It was like us saying that we’d kind of developed this persona for the band before, and we don’t like how it’s been manipulated and made into a fashion show. So we wanted to do something nobody would expect and do something that nobody could really duplicate without looking foolish. And that was the band The Black Parade.”
Way says MCR will go in and out of character as The Black Parade during the shows on the group’s current tour, which kicked off last week in New Hampshire. The group is playing “The Black Parade” album in its entirety but still, according to Way, tries "to retain the essence of a rock show."
“It’s going to bring the music and the band and the record to life," he says, "but it’s going to be theatrical without being detracting. It’s not going to be surface over substance.
“We’re really focusing on being great performers, having the right amount of instruments and everything in there, and then the theatrics will come into play. But it’s definitely about the music first.”
My Chemical Romance and Rise Against perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (February 28th) at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets are $30.25. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www. olympiaentertainment.com.
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