On Friday night Andrew McMahon’s Zombies on Broadway tour made a stop to the sold out Fillmore in Philadelphia. Accompanying Andrew McMahon were the alt rockers Night Riots and the Australian-based Atlas Genius. The tour was announced in support of his second album with the Wilderness project, Zombies on Broadway which was released just about two months ago on February 10th. Night Riots were the first band to take the stage, and performed an intimate set with front man Travis Hawley getting up close and personal with the front row. They performed their hits, “Nothing Personal,” and finished their not quite long enough set with the catchy, “Contagious.” Atlas Genius took the stage next, bringing more of a indie-rock mood to the crowd. Opening with “Stockholm,” they took a moment after the song to address the terror attack in Sweden just a few days before, sending out a message of hope and unity. Their set included favorites such as “If So,” “Molecules,” and finished with “Trojans.”
When Andrew McMahon took the stage, I felt a sense of excitement and pure bliss that I have only felt a few other times during a concert. I have been fortunate enough to see Andrew eight times before, and I swear each show just keeps getting better. He opened with the hit single off his new album, “Fire Escape,” an extremely catchy, up beat song that was the perfect start to the show. Next was one of my favorites off of his first album with the self-titled Wilderness project, the piano dominated “Canyon Moon.” Right away he wanted to make the crowd feel part of the show, and took a few laps in front of the barricade giving high fives and climbing on the barrier. Up next was “Walking in My Sleep,” another song off of Zombies on Broadway which represented more of the pop side of the album.
He continued alternating between his first and second album, switching it up from the piano dominated songs to the songs that allowed him to bounce around energetically on stage. After a slow piano reprise ending to “Island Radio,” he paused to thank the crowd for coming out and gave a shoutout to the fans that have stuck with him for a little over a decade. One of my favorite things about an Andrew McMahon show is that he doesn’t rush through the setlist – he takes time after nearly every song to make sure everyone is having fun or to give some fun anecdote. He then talked about his old project, Jack’s Mannequin, which gave rise to a massive cheer from the crowd who knew where he was going.
For those of you not familiar with Andrew, this is his third music project – he was the frontman of Something Corporate from 1998 until about 2004, recreated his band as Jack’s Mannequin from 2005 until 2012 when he stopped using that name and decided to pursue solo work. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness was officially born in July of 2014 when he released a new single, “Cecilia and the Satellite.”
The opening notes to “Dark Blue,” – Jack’s Mannequin’s most popular song – rang out across the concert hall and the long-time fans sang the words back at him. We were also treated to a slowed down version of “The Mixed Tape,”which brought the band huddled together around the piano. After a super cool cover of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream,” he took a moment to give a shout out to his foundation, Dear Jack. Andrew was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia in the summer of 2005; the same day he finished recording Everything in Transit, Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album. His life was saved just a few months later when he received a stem cell transplant from his sister on August 23rd; the same day the album was released. In 2006, Andrew founded the Dear Jack Foundation which raises money for research and to support cancer patients aged 15-39. It really is an amazing foundation, and there is always a booth giving information at all of his shows (consider donating at their website).
He almost always treats the crowd to at least one song from Something Corporate, and tonight was no exception. “I Woke up in a Car”, is a classic early 2000s pop-punk jam that was the defining staple of Andrew McMahon’s early career, and he played it just as I imagined he did in 2002 at his first shows (check out the music video for some major nostalgia). His “official” last song was one that he has been ending shows with for the past few years, the foot-tapping electronica-themed “Synesthesia,” which included a giant rainbow parachute being thrown over the crowd for an intimate dance party. Andrew left the stage half way through the song to join the crowd under the parachute for some dancing and singing, and as the last note was played, he walked off stage waving.
Barely a minute had passed and he was already walking back on stage, this time joined with lead singer/guitarist Keith from Atlas Genius. They explained that Keith helped write the next song when Andrew was struggling to put the finishing touches on the album, and it was only fitting that they played it together on stage. The song in question was “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me,” a song that has breaks with a spoken word kind of rap that was very reminiscent of Jack’s Mannequin work. The second song for the encore was “La La Lie,” from Jack’s Mannequin, which featured harmonica melodies and Andrew taking his first ride on a giant inflatable dragon that he had just bought on Amazon. Oddly enough I was at the first show he used an inflatable duck to crowd surf on, which makes me convinced he knows when I’m going to be at his shows. Quite fittingly, his final song was the one that started it all, “Cecelia and the Satellite,” written for his daughter.
“I hope you guys are having fun, because I plan on doing this for quite a few more years,” Andrew said laughing towards the end of his set, much to the delight of the sold out venue. You’d think battling cancer and playing shows for nearly 20 years would take a toll on someone, but not Andrew McMahon. No matter how much fun you are having at one of his shows, I can promise you Andrew is having more fun. He plays with such passion and energy that you cannot help but be in awe at both his talent as a performer and as a musician. My ninth show was just as amazing as the ones that preceded it, but for my tenth show, I really just want to hear Konstantine live.