This was going to be a special night. Since 2002 when Leaving Through The Window came out, I became hooked on Andrew McMahon’s comforting boyish voice and beautiful rhythmic piano. “Konstantine” was THE anthem and drunken sing-along amongst my friends. Now, being able to see him live at Terminal 5 in NYC about 13 years and two bands later was something I could check off my “wish list.” I noticed an interesting array of bands to play beforehand. I did not know what I was in for once the lights began to lower and the filler music stopped.
LOLO came out in this giant magnificent fur coat and right when she opened her mouth, the combination of her presence and voice exuded this soulful Janis Joplin sensation with a touch of pop. No matter if she had merely a guitarist and background tracks, she sounded spectacular. During the chorus of her cautionary tale about people running their mouths and getting “fucked over,” “Heard It From A Friend,” my jaw dropped and I was blown away. And her song “Not Gonna Let You Walk Away,” just amazing. What a wholesome, fervent, beautiful voice. She belted each note fluctuating within her expansive vocal range. You could tell her songs were subjective by her unyielding passion, similar to the style of Adele or Winehouse.
As the lights dimmed for the next band, the Griswolds, “Kung Fu Fighting” played loudly while the guys approached the stage; each with his own bleached asymmetrical haircut and full H&M attire. They pumped out their popular track, “Right On Track,” which was extremely dancey and catchy. I found myself singing along with the audience even though I had never heard the song before. Their electronic indie pop was well produced and put together. The lead singer’s voice was young and spry like Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos. Coupled with their high energy music, it could put you in the best of moods regardless of what state you were in prior. “Mississippi” had this vocal part that almost mimicked a pretty bird call. I wanted to whistle it each time I heard it. “If You Wanna Stay” was another pop-like tune that made me want to start my own foxtrot. They were just so fun.
Next up was New Politics of whom which received a complete backdrop change and fancy stage setup. I realized this set up was imperative for their hour long performance. And I say performance because in addition to their vivacious, indie-punk-pop-electronica dance party, David Boyd (lead singer) was breakdancing and executing some serious acrobatics accompanied with some serious pelvic thrusting. I was certainly not prepared. Especially when the guitarist/keyboardist/backup singer, Soren Hansen, took off his shirt and Boyd followed suit. Major chick-swooning proceeded. I heard and smelled it. Literally. The girl next to me was screaming “take it off!” Was I at a 5 Seconds to Summer show (do they have the same logo?) or watching an indie/Danish version of Magic Mike?
ANYWAYS, yes, they also played music. “Everywhere I Go” was the quintessence of living out the life you want to live and never limiting yourself. Boyd and Hansen sang, “We get high, we get by, yeah we roll with it. We been up, we been down, we got over it.” Not one person had their hands down. These dudes were killing it and working the crowd perfectly. “50 Feet Tall” was this provocative male-anthem that the lead singer of the Griswolds came out to double team. “Berlin” was a pretty cool track that was kind of punk rock and I loved Hansen’s backup vocals that he screamed out. He itched to expose and unleash his inner rock & roll. He tossed about his Danish-flagged guitar and flung his body around the stage for “Just Like Me…” I really thought he would smash it when it detached from his body.
The stage set up resembled the wilderness; fake grass on the piano, the amps, a fishbowl on piano, and these giant balloons. They have enough equipment on stage to fill in for all their music unlike the other bands that played. Andrew came out to a dimly lit purple stage with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” as his background music. He got on stage alone on the piano and began “Rainy Girl” as his band slowly came out. It was the perfect soundscape.
As he transitioned to the next song, McMahon walked around the stage with the biggest smile asking, “Are you ready to have fun tonight?!” The crowd roared as he began “Dark Blue” (Jack’s Mannequin). He bobbed and shifted as if he had ants in his pants and couldn’t simply sit still. Every time he sang, “Have you ever been alone in a crowded room when I’m here with you,” he reached out to the audience to grab our hands. I was so glad and overly ecstatic that McMahon brought out Jack’s Mannequin AS WELL AS Something Corporate. I felt youthful again. And I can tell you that every single person was forever grateful to be singing along with him to a soft solo piano version of “Punk Rock Princess,” “I Woke Up In A Car,” “Holiday From Real,” “Swim,” “La La Lie,” and “Bloodshot.” I knew I was.
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness had their share of playtime, too. They played “Canyon” and “All Our Lives,” which are two of my favorites of their album. Both, along with the others, take after McMahon’s writing style, his songs are small ballads with stories you can watch happen in your head. And that is what is so special about McMahon. He’s able to maintain his essence while applying it to different genres. No matter if it had electronic beat, or synths, or a ton of percussion instruments, it was still McMahon and he still exercised his keys like he couldn’t keep his hands off of them.
McMahon’s energy soared above and beyond that night. He was all over the place and so present in every way. One second he’d be manipulating the piano and the next second his tall slender frame stood on top of it. He was definitely stoked to be able to run around the stage and not need to be glued to his piano. Before going into “Swim,” he spoke about his Dear Jack Foundation and how he is lucky to beat cancer but that not all people are as fortunate. This song was personal; “I’m not giving in, I swear” he projected out loud and proud to let us know we all have to keep hope alive and our heads above water. Truly inspiring.
Andrew instructed, “If you’re in the crowd with your friends, grab them and sing this one with me. It’s just ‘la-la-lie.’” We all did. Standing on his piano at every “la la lie,” he jetted out to the crowd for them to sing with him. Towards the end he ripped out his ear phones and grabbed the balloons to hand out to the audience and professed, “I’m feeling good New York. But I would feel a little better if that bartender over there had a little shot of jäger for me.” Andrew made his way over to the bar by floating above the crowd using their hands as his ocean. On his voyage back, New Politics came out to finish up the song. Andrew continued to play harmonica while Hansen played piano as Boyd lay adoringly on it.
For the encore, they played “Satellite” and the lights were these clearly defined beams that extended out from behind them. Andrew shouted, “Sing with us!” At which time the entire room was vocally in attendance. Leading into his final song, “Synthenesia,” he divulged childhood memories of feeling safe underneath a giant parachute where you would dance and sing your cares away. Not only did he share the memory audibly, but he actually got this huge parachute to drape over the crowd to have them experience the sense of blithe and security as he did. I felt so connected to everyone and everything that was happening. Winding down the end of the song, positioned again on top of his piano, Andrew wrapped himself in the parachute like a blanket and sang out the “whoaa ohh’s” with the audience until he tapered off. This night was particularly wonderful and warming.