Spirits they hadn’t heard from in six years were summoned, as My Chemical Romance announced their long-rumored reunion. Joe Jonas turned out to be a holy prophet and fans planned their ticket buying strategies for the big comeback show, a Dec. 20 date at Los Angeles’ Shrine Expo Hall, or crossed their fingers for more nearby (or affordable) concerts in the near future. In the days that followed, the band announced a handful of international dates for 2020, perhaps hinting at more extensive touring to come.
When frontman Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro, and drummer Jarrod Alexander take the stage for the five thousand or so fans lucky enough to make it, what will be in store? Will the band go heavy on its radio singles or cater to the hardcore fans with numerous deep cuts? Will they bring out special guests? Could we get — gasp — new music?
Here’s our dream set list for My Chemical Romance’s first concert since breaking up in 2013.
“Long ago… Just like the hearse you die to get in again…”
Just think of how the place is going to erupt after those whispered opening lines from this glam-punk rager — the first song off My Chemical Romance’s first big album — lurches the track into overdrive. Themes of birth and death battle side-by-side throughout “Helena” (it’s inspired by the guilt Gerard felt from missing his grandmother’s final days) making it a fitting lead into the band’s second life.
2. “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid”
The two-minute ball of lightning that followed “Helena” on 2004’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is a must-play, considering both Way brothers named it their favorite song to play live. (A “face melter,” Mikey aptly called it.) There’s no place in My Chem’s set where the intro’s ominous bass strokes would sound more sinister than where fans heard them a thousand times before: seconds after the “Helena” closing crescendo.
Maybe it’s during this song’s stormy-skied conga line of an intro that Gerard finally gets a moment to address the crowd following two livewire tracks that hardly allow a breather. One thing playing “DESTROYA” this early in the set would definitely do is invigorate the comparatively small — but disproportionately loud — sector of My Chem’s fan base that calls the band’s 2010 swan song, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, its favorite in the discography.
After three consecutive ragers, it’s time to shift the tempo. Enter the twitchy, acoustic intro and topsy-turvy Klezmer rhythms of this Black Parade show-stopper — arguably the most theatrical song on My Chem’s most theatrical album. Maybe Liza Minnelli can make it out to perform her spoken word part!
5. “Our Lady of Sorrows”
Now’s the time for Gerard and the boys to let the diehards know this isn’t just about the famous tracks from the major label days. Playing something off 2002’s debut LP I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love — even a VFW hall pit-opener as raucous as this one — is bound to send some to their phone screens or at least keep them from singing along. But anyone who’s not feeling it by the time Gerard sneers his eighth F-bomb like a high school punk who just discovered Alkaline Trio and screams the final stanza doesn’t have a pulse.
6. “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison”
Not that there’s any room for circle pits in the theater-seated Shrine Expo Hall, but let’s keep that metaphoric moshing going. Two years ago, the Billboard staff voted this Three Cheers runaway train the second best deep cut by an A-list rock band this century, and if they left it out of their comeback set, we’d feel vaguely like the song’s embattled protagonist. Vaguely.
Time for a singalong! After all the grit and gore of the past two songs, let’s to dip back into the Black Parade songbook and let everyone in the crowd feel like they’re auditioning for My Chemical Romance: On Broadway. Shouts to any actual teenagers in the audience, who likely put in the work to get into My Chemical Romance during its hiatus and are probably making some of the crowd feel like Gerard in the song’s lyrics.
8. A New Song
With the crowd feeling all good and whimsical from “Teenagers,” now it’s time for a big reveal. That’s right — a new song from My Chemical Romance in the year of our lord 2019.
We stress that we at Billboard don’t actually know any inside info about the band’s reunion plans. And who in their right mind would want to debut a brand new song before you even know if you can play your whole set of old songs to a live audience? But what fan at the comeback gig wouldn’t want to witness a new chapter in My Chemical Romance performed right before their eyes? This is a fantasy setlist. But before we start fantasizing specifics as to what direction My Chem might take on its first new music nine years, let’s return to the here and now.
9. “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
Back to something familiar: the manic lead single off Danger Days, complete with singalong parts rivaling “Teenagers” in their ability to get the capacity crowd screaming in unison.
10. “Vampire Money”
It’s unlikely the song’s titular inspiration — being annoyed by requests to cash in by writing a song for the Twilight series — is something the band thinks about much these days. But this joyride down the Bowie-Queen-’77 punk expressway, pre-verse “you ready?” call outs and all, is just too fun to leave off the setlist.
11. “The Ghost of You”
With so much energy spent over the last two Danger Days rippers, enter “The Ghost Of You” and its crystalline intro — for a few extra bars, even — serving as an interlude into this Three Cheers single’s anthemic aggression… and the final sequence of songs before the band leaves the stage for the first time.
12. “Headfirst For Halos”
In the 2006 doc Life On the Murder Scene, Gerard calls this punk rock revue of handclaps, corkscrew guitars, and shifting tempos “the most important song” on My Chem’s debut album — his thinking being, that if the fledgling band could pull off such a multi-faceted song, their sound would never be pigeonholed. Nearly two decades later, it’s the prefect test to see if you’ve still got it. Here’s to hoping the track’s producer Geoff Rickly, better known as the frontman of fellow Jersey punk stalwarts Thursday, is in the crowd to let them know for sure.
13. “Famous Last Words”
Another of the Ways’ most beloved songs, the lyrics of Black Parade’s sweeping closer were written by Gerard to help convince his younger brother — then stricken with depression and anxiety — to reclaim his vacated spot in the band. Salvos like “I am not afraid to keep on living!” have had a similar effect on countless fans. “Famous Last Words” would be a fitting send off to the evening, but of course My Chemical Romance still has hits to deliver.
14. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
After the band exits the stage, it’s obvious they’ll be back for more, so why not open the encore with their breakthrough hit? Like most My Chem tracks, “I’m Not Okay” holds ominious undertones, but bursts into angst-shattering catharsis when played live with thousands of diehards shouting along to Gerard’s sneakily hilarious lyrics. Trust me.
Now it’s time to break out the piano… and perhaps the bleakest song My Chemical Romance ever wrote. A little interlude between two of the band’s biggest songs, this Black Parade requiem for a dying patient will give both the crowd and the band a chance to wipe the sweat (and tears?) away and catch their breath before the grand finale.
16. “Welcome to the Black Parade”
It’s time for My Chemical Romance’s most epic, most enduring song — their own “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The crowd’s been in the palm of My Chem’s skeleton-cloaked hand all evening, but watching “Black Parade” explode from its opening piano singalong to its breakneck choruses is the precise moment so much of the audience has been pining for. If Gerard’s voice is feeling tired from performing his most demanding set in a decade, he can rest assured the crowd will be there to fill in every last one of the lyrics. After the final snare taps, My Chemical Romance exits the stage, but we’d be shocked if the crowd isn’t still screaming for more.
17. “The Kids From Yesterday”
That’s right — My Chemical Romance is back out for one more song, encore number two. An unexpected performance of “The Kids From Yesterday” is of course a massive show of gratitude to the crowd on hand, but beneath the surface, it’s a deeply meaningful moment for the men onstage. Danger Days‘ synth-driven closer was the last song written for My Chem’s final album and in its lyrics, Gerard and company speak directly to their younger selves:
“‘Cause you only live forever in the lights you make / When we were young, we used to say / That you only hear the music when your heart begins to break / Now, we are the kids from yesterday.”
They’re still the same kids, but this time, they’re part of a new beginning.
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to note that Jarrod Alexander will be the drummer for My Chemical Romance’s reunion show.