It's hard to say who had more fun at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night: all the ecstatic fans too young to have ever seen the cult-loved headliners before, older attendees who went without adrenaline-fueled rock shows like this for two years, or the band members who didn't perform together for 10 years.
Suffice it to say, though, My Chemical Romance made up for lost time.
A rare breed of rock band that actually got bigger after it broke up, the punky New Jersey unit managed to pack the St. Paul hockey arena despite a decade of inactivity and not a whole lot of mainstream success. That's after far more iconic rock acts like Guns N' Roses and Rod Stewart had trouble even half-filling the place over the past year.
Exact details of how MCR got so big during its lull are as murky as many fans' black eyeliner at the end of Thursday's 95-minute show. But based on the crowd's familiarity with its angst-ridden lyrics and the band's tight and impactful performance, you'd have thought the group had stayed highly active instead of lying totally low since 2013.
"On tour like this, you really feel like you're on vacation," singer Gerard Way — who seemingly had been on vacation the decade prior — said during one of his many oddball but love-filled interactions with the 15,000 fans.
Eschewing the all-black costumed attire that helped make MCR popular in rock's emo and goth circles, Way took the stage looking way more like Jeff Spicoli than Edward Scissorhands in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses.
His brother, bassist Mikey Way, wore a similar floral shirt while the other four touring members of the band looked like they just got off work from a sandwich shop. There was nothing laid-back about their performance, though.
After the moody, slower opener "The Foundations of Decay" — during which the curtain behind the stage dropped to reveal a ruined city a la "Fight Club" — not one second of the music played Thursday sounded half-tempo or half-hearted.
The adrenaline level hit overload right away in the Bowie-meets-Ramones-like second tune "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)." By the time the band got to "Helena" and "Desert Song" in the encore, it felt like a giant steam valve had been opened up under the Twin Cities, letting out the pressure that accumulated over the two years since MCR first announced its COVID-delayed tour.
Minnesota fans were treated to a few tunes not yet played a lot on the reunion trek since its mid-May start, including "This Is the Best Day Ever" and "Surrender the Night." That's on top of the many must-play tunes from MCR's four-album discography, including "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)," "Boy Division" " and "Teenagers."
"Teenagers scare the living [bleep] out of me," Way sang, ironically and loudly accompanied by teenage fans who were in diapers when it came out in 2006.
In the anthemic "Famous Last Words" — which arrived last before the encore — the crowd shouted out the misery-filled words in a way that truly felt hopeful: "I am not afraid to keep on living / I am not afraid to walk this world alone."
When the biggest hit arrived midway through the set, "Welcome to the Black Parade," the show took on palpable Queen-at-Wembley/"We Are the Champions" vibes, invoking another band that has gotten more popular and become endlessly pertinent to young rock fans over the years. If MCR isn't headed down that road, at least it's clear it should not wait another 10 years before returning to the road.