Sound — 8
My Chemical Romance have never exactly been renowned for their live performances. Sure, the hardcore fans may have gotten their best in-jokes from singer Gerard Way moaning during inappropriate moments (the bridge of "The Ghost Of You", for example) or literally dancing his (women's) jeans off. But it isn't entirely unfair to say that the best part of the "Revenge"-era (2004-2005) shows was the dynamic between guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero. Gerard was shrill, bassist Mikey Way could be dull, and the stint during which the band coupled with The Used is laughable at best. After the release of "The Black Parade" in 2006, however, the shows completely turned around. Not only was it a completely new aesthetic, but the theme - complete with matching "Sergeant Pepper"-style outfits and a full run-through of the new album - was a breath of fresh air, and allowed a complete re-imagination of each and every band member. Gerard was now theatrical without being shrill, especially in the later shows. Ray had a great backdrop to his already theatrically-influenced style, and Frank's darker energy was especially punctuated. Bob Bryar's over-the-top power perfectly complimented the album's style. Even Mikey's "pose"-driven technique felt striking. "The Black Parade Is Dead!" chronicles the last complete performance of the album. Filmed in Mexico City, this was the second live release by the band, following up on "Life On The Murder Scene", which included a documentary and a few live performances from the "Revenge" era. "The Black Parade" sounds spectacular in a live setting. The relationship between the two guitarists, which was apparent in the band's 2004 release, "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge", is highlighted quite nicely. Bob sounds wonderful on the drums. Above all, Gerard's vocals are exponentially more approachable than in previous tours. In fact, if there's one thing I have any gripes about, it would be Mikey Way's technique, which still leaves much to desired. In terms of style, it can be guessed that "The Black Parade Is Dead!" reflects its namesake album, vastly different from either of the previous My Chem releases. Where one may think this would disrupt establishments such as the Ray/Iero dynamic, it actually works as well as ever. "Teenagers" is far better, in that respect, than the studio version. The addition of keys during this tour is also a great new element.
Content — 7
This set comes with not only the filmed performance, but another performance from Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. This is a much more varied setlist, having been filmed after the Black Parade had "died". Also included is an audio disk of "The Black Parade Is Dead!" The CD might actually be the gem of the entire set. The piano work by James Dewees is allowed much more attention than in the DVD, the crowd reaction - enthusiastic during each and every song - is very exciting, and Bob is mixed excellently, apparently in tracks like "Dead!" and "Sleep". The guitars are nothing short of thrilling, especially in "Teenagers" and "Mama". More than anything, the album itself just sounds great when performed live, especially in a venue as massive as the Palacio de los Deportes (a seating of 20, 000). The DVD is great as well, though admittedly tiring. "The Black Parade" alone runs at nearly an hour, and there isn't much to be seen in terms of pyrotechnics. The best moments, visually, are all in "The End", "Welcome To The Black Parade", "Mama", and "Famous Last Words". Apart from that, some lighting techniques are used ("Cancer"), and there are a few interesting shots from in the crowd. But by the time "Disenchanted" rolled around, I was ready for it to end. Gerard's stage presence does make up for this, which makes songs like "Sleep" (this version of which, I think, defeats the studio version) interesting. The actual concept of the album is never really outlined in anything but the songs, which leave only a few clues as it is. On one hand, this means that "The Black Parade" as an album requires much less from the listener than, say, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" - which, let's be honest, is a very drawn-out experience - but the live setting would certainly have benefited from something visual. The Maxwell's show is a lot of fun, especially as it brings the older songs to the new performances. Gerard's vocals are much cleaner than in "Life On The Murder Scene", and the guitars actually sound much bigger. The only real complaint I have is with the inclusion of "Mama". This is a song which sounds excellent in a stadium, but misplaced in a tiny little club. Maxwell's isn't even a House of Blues. On the other hand, the length isn't such a bother thanks to interaction with the crowd and a more varied sound. Of course, it still has the problem of limiting itself to two albums - "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love" gets no love what'soever, which is a shame.
Production Quality — 7
Production is good enough to get the job done, though the real brilliance is in the performance itself. After all, you can readjust the positioning of a certain guitarist as many times as you like, but the guitarist himself may still sound terrible. One of the things I like most about "The Black Parade Is Dead!" is that, in the end, it's really just a straight-up performance with fairly standard filming techniques, allowing a focus on a performance which certainly is good, just not entirely captivating for the full hour. The Jersey show indulges in video effects and the like, which doesn't necessarily take away from the performance, but is arguably a bit on the irritating side of "gimmicky".
Overall Impression — 7
For a period, I listened to "The Black Parade Is Dead!" far more often than the actual record. Of course, there's nothing like the real thing, as with any release, but the Mexico performance holds up extremely well, particularly on the CD. The DVD performance feels a bit long, though many critics argue that the album itself shares this trait. Looking at the Hoboken performance, which is actually two songs longer, this is especially obvious. However, the change in pace from the previously released performances is interesting enough the first few times that it's definitely worth the buy. Heck, the CD alone is worth the buy. I take issue with primarily the Hoboken setlist's hiccup or two, lack of aesthetic variation in the Mexico performance, and the lack of a CD to accompany the Hoboken performance. This is almost balanced by the excellent guitar work and some fun moments for the frontman. Not to mention a very, very excited crowd, which can make or break a filmed performance (see Switchfoot's "The Best Yet In Nashville" for more).