My Chemical Romance’s first reunion show was a personally moving experience for Matt Galle, the band’s longtime agent. “It was very emotional to see them back,” CAA’s Galle, who had known the group since his days as a small-time Boston promoter in the early 2000s, tells Billboard of the band’s comeback show, an underplay at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles in December 2019. “You never knew if it was going to happen again or not.”
The sold-out show at the nearly 5,000-capacity venue went off without a hitch: the band’s performance was rapturous, and the box office gross was record-breaking. Yet prior to the show, Galle looked around the audience and got the biggest hint at just how significant a full My Chemical Romance reunion tour could be. “I noticed that the crowd was people my age that grew up with the band, and maybe a little older,” says Galle, 44. “And then there were people that were my kids’ ages — in junior high, in high school, in college. It was multiple generations of people, that had all waited to see them.”
Two-and-a-half years and one pandemic later, My Chemical Romance have returned to the road, and hundreds of thousands of fans across demographics and continents have gotten what they’ve been waiting for. During a summer in which a crowded marketplace has led to some deflated ticket sales, the My Chemical Romance Reunion Tour has thus far been an unequivocal smash: through 21 dates across the U.K. and Europe in May and June, the trek earned $21.1 million with 277,000 tickets sold, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.
Those numbers make the reunion run the biggest tour of My Chemical Romance’s career – and it’s not even one-third of the way complete. Later this month, the band kicks off a 42-date North American tour that wraps in November, then heads to Australia and New Zealand for eight shows in March 2023, with headlining festival gigs interspersed with arena dates. With tickets in sky-high demand, Billboard Boxscore estimates that the My Chemical Romance Reunion Tour’s final gross will cross $60 million.
“It’s gotten so, so much bigger than anyone thought it could be,” says Rick Franks, co-president of North American touring at Live Nation, one of multiple promoters working on the Reunion Tour. “We knew it was big. We knew it was arena big. We just didn’t know the demand would blow these places out immediately.”
“Compared to the market as a whole,” says Adam Weiser, svp of global touring at AEG, “this is one of the biggest tours of the last three years.”
Even in their commercial heyday in the mid-‘00s, My Chemical Romance were never sure-thing arena headliners – led by Gerard Way, the quartet represented an influential alt-rock group with a cult following and some true crossover moments. Their 2004 sophomore album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but spun off emo-pop singles like “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Helena,” the band’s first Hot 100 entries. The Black Parade, the band’s rock opera follow-up, became their mainstream breakthrough, bowing at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and giving the band their lone top 10 hit on the Hot 100 with the epic-by-design sing-along “Welcome to the Black Parade,” which peaked at No. 9.
The Black Parade World Tour in 2007-08 brought My Chemical Romance to a mix of arenas, theaters and festivals around the globe, earning an average of $183,600 on 5,415 tickets sold per date, according to Billboard Boxscore. Yet the band’s 2010 album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys halted their commercial momentum, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard 200; its accompanying live run, The World Contamination Tour, saw nightly grosses and attendance fall by 27% (to $136,000) and 37% (to 3,392 tickets), respectively. That tour wrapped in May 2012, and less than a year later, My Chemical Romance announced their breakup.
As the band members explored solo and side projects in the mid-2010s, however, My Chemical Romance’s catalog gained a steady listenership across different platforms. The Black Parade has become a regular entry on Top Rock & Alternative Albums, a consumption-based weekly chart, for years: since 2017, the album has logged 83 weeks on the tally, placing next to new releases as well as enduring classics by bands like Nirvana and Sublime. As “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” “Helena” and “Welcome to the Black Parade” have carried on, as it were, as streaming successes – combined, they’ve earned over 1 billion U.S. on-demands streams to date, according to Luminate – and as staples in alternative and rock radio rotations.
“There is a level of rediscovery that’s happening,” says Michelle Rutkowski, program director at alt-rock station WLUM-FM in Milwaukee. “‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ was always the biggest hit and shows up the most frequently in our library, but it’s been interesting to see ‘Helena’ and ‘I’m Not Okay’ [performing well] in research, where previously they had not.”
Rutkowski also points out that My Chemical Romance’s appeal was never just about the songs and albums – the band’s aesthetic, a goth-glam riff on mid-’00s emo that updated through different album eras, cut through a crowded scene. It also fueled major merchandise sales, even (and especially) when the band was defunct. “MCR has one of the most passionate fan bases I’ve ever seen during my 10-plus years as a buyer at Hot Topic,” Mikey Seitis, senior buyer of music and music apparel at the popular mall chain, told Billboard in 2020.
In addition to the renewed interest in their catalog and t-shirt sale opportunities, Weiser believes that a My Chemical Romance reunion run was always going to do strong business because of the band’s touring history… or lack thereof. “There was almost this mythology of My Chemical Romance live, because they never over-toured,” he says. The band’s final headline trek mostly played to theaters, and was broken up by a co-headlining run with Blink-182 as part of the Honda Civic Tour that year.
As such, the band hadn’t embarked on a proper headlining tour with arena dates since The Black Parade World Tour wrapped in 2008 – creating a “perfect storm” of demand, says Rich Schaefer, svp of global touring at AEG. “Longtime fans had been waiting, and new fans had come up without ever having had the chance to see the band,” he says. “So we just sort of realized, ‘Wow, this thing [could] be huge.’”
According to Galle, the first real discussion of a reunion tour happened in early summer 2019 at a meeting at Way’s Los Angeles home; the band had a specific vision for the return, one that didn’t include a comeback album or media blitz. “It was always a less-is-more thing – they just wanted to play the music for the fans,” says Galle. The Shrine Auditorium show in December 2019 sold out immediately and grossed nearly $1.5 million, a record for the venue. A 2020 reunion tour, including 18 North American arena dates for the fall of the year, was announced in January, and ticket demand surpassed the wildest expectations of all parties involved.
“I remember the morning of the first presale – we just had these massive queue counts on these arena shows,” Schaefer recalls. “They had some of the biggest numbers I had ever heard of for a non-Elton, non-Springsteen kind of thing. It was in its own universe.”
Of course, that 2020 tour never happened – the run was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, then postponed again to 2022. Ticket buyers were given the opportunity to receive refunds due to the postponement – and reps for both Live Nation and AEG confirm that the overwhelming majority did not, instead opting to hold onto their spots at the My Chemical Romance Reunion Tour for over 900 days.
The postponement allowed more dates to be added to the Reunion Tour, with those 18 dates expanded to over 40 in North America, including extra shows in the New York and Los Angeles areas and smaller markets like Raleigh, San Antonio and Cincinnati added as well. My Chemical Romance’s U.K. and Europe tour maintained an average of $1 million per night, and Galle says that the North American dates “should all be around the $2 million-plus gross range.”
With the U.S. run kicking off on Aug. 20 in Oklahoma City, My Chemical Romance diehards in North America will finally get a chance to see the band after years of inactivity and postponements. After that, the band’s future remains to be seen. Although they released a surprise single, the six-minute prog-rock scorcher “The Foundations of Decay,” in May to help commemorate their live return, no new album or further studio output has been confirmed. And while the reunion tour has demonstrated a huge demand for their live show, My Chemical Romance may choose not to exploit that market once this run wraps up in early 2023.
“I don’t think they’re gonna be an act that’s out touring every year, at all,” says Galle. “If they do end up playing again after these dates are over, it’ll be selective, and the way they want to do it.” With the band headlining festivals like Firefly, Riot Fest and When We Were Young (the lattermost is expected to sell 185,000-190,000 tickets across three days, per Live Nation) as part of their upcoming North America itinerary, Galle says that it’s been gratifying to have other festival bookers ringing him up about My Chemical Romance for future lineups.
“A lot of the cool festivals want them to headline and be a part of them,” Galle says. “I don’t know what they’ll end up doing, but it’s nice to see people thinking about them in that respect.”
Regardless of how My Chemical Romance’s touring future plays out, the Reunion Tour has been so successful that any follow-up should generate major interest from fans who missed this comeback run, or want a second helping. The performance of this tour has proven that My Chemical Romance should be viewed as a major player on the road moving forward, and not just for a long-awaited reunion trek.
“If they [tour] strategically and don’t over-saturate the market,” says Schaefer, “I think that they can absolutely sustain this crazy-high level.”