NEW YORK, NY—Every so often you get lucky enough to experience a gig that completely blows your mind. And Jack’s Mannequin’s show at Irving Plaza was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Not only is Andrew McMahon incredibly inspirational for battling leukemia and surviving a huge battle when the odds were stacked against him, but the former Something Corporate frontman didn’t just come back into the scene after being seriously ill—he returned with a killer new record. And after seeing him live, McMahon appears invigorated, brimming with energy, and quite clearly sporting a new appreciation, and approach, to his life and his music. In fact, the performance he gave was so full-power and high-energy that it’s difficult to believe this is the same guy who was bed-ridden in a hospital less than four years ago.
On the day Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, Everything In Transit, was remastered in ‘05, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant, with his sister as the donor, and last year, the band’s very touching, insightful, and heartfelt second delivery, The Glass Passenger, was released. Despite being out of the touring game for some time, McMahon showed he hadn’t forgotten how to deliver a memorable performance, and rouse a crowd. When he wasn’t sitting at his piano, he was jumping around the stage, gearing up the sold-out audience with lines like “Are you getting sweaty New York City?” and “Do you mind if I see your hands in the sky?” McMahon had constant banter going, cracked jokes about wearing skinny jeans especially for New Yorkers, and even made light of annoying technical difficulties. “We’ve lost some important mechanisms that make this piano make sounds. Should we push on anyway? What do you guys think?”
While his newest delivery documents the feelings and experiences he lived through, and learned from, over the last few years, the way he connects to his songs shows his music is much more of a celebration and achievement for him than anything else. The very talented singer, pianist and harmonica player put heart, soul, passion, drive and electricity into every single song he performed. Fans that packed the Fillmore were so dedicated that within the first few seconds of each track, the venue was filled with roars as each song was recognized. Highlight tracks (basically every single song played) included “The Mixed Tape,” “Bruised,” “I’m Ready,” “La La Lie,” “Dark Blue,” “Spinning,” “Swim,” and “Crashin’.” McMahon’s performance proved that Jack’s Mannequin is no longer a band which stands in the shadows of Something Corporate. The quartet’s music has a distinct flavor and this gig took piano rock to a whole new level.
While Jack’s is McMahon’s major focus and passion, a performance wouldn’t be complete without a tribute to the band that he dedicated his life to for at least eight years. In what was possibly the biggest crowd-pleaser of the night, McMahon surprised fans with a rendition of Something Corporate’s “Me And The Moon” and it felt like the roof of Irving Plaza was close to blowing right off with all the cheers, whistles and shrieks. To put it simply, McMahon is living proof that if your will is strong enough, you can endure some of the worst things in the world, and still achieve your dreams. McMahon is without a doubt one of my favorite artists, and is a very moving and talented musician who delivered an unforgettable show. “There are not too many places on this earth I’d rather be than New York City,” he told the crowd. “Thank you for this wonderful night tonight.” Right back at you, McMahon.