By: Alyssa Murphree, April 19, 2017
On Friday April 7, I had the pleasure of seeing Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform at The Fillmore on the Philadelphia stop of their Zombies in America tour. Having purchased my ticket in November, and writing a review of their latest album, you could say this was a highly-anticipated event for myself. I had the right to anticipate it so highly, as I can confidently say that this was undoubtedly my favorite concert I’ve attended thus far.
The night began with two opening acts, Night Riots and Atlas Genius. Night Riots, a band originating from San Luis Obispo, California, enchanted the crowd with their deep, haunting melodies, dark lyrics, and light up drumsticks. Atlas Genius, hailing from Australia, was invited on the tour, according to Andrew McMahon, because of lead singer Keith Jeffrey’s involvement in writing his song “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me”. Based on the text conversation of the guy next to me, one may find Atlas Genius to be reminiscent of Coldplay, but to each their own. Another fun fact about Atlas Genius is that three of the band members are brothers. I found this out upon further research in order to answer my question of “why does most of this band have the exact same face?”
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the solo project of Andrew McMahon, who is known for his previous punk bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon is the principle songwriter of this project and his touring band has been coined “The Wilderness”. This show was part of the Zombies in America tour following the February release of his latest album, Zombies on Broadway.
The collective enthusiasm for McMahon once he ran on stage was nothing like I had ever experienced. The sold-out crowd of 2,500 was comprised of fans who had been along for the ride since his 2005 Something Corporate days, to younger fans like myself, who have been fans for only a few years, but devoured his entire discography and knew every word as if we’d been there forever. The aforementioned texting guy was telling the people around him that this was the first of FOUR shows he was seeing on this tour, all within the next few days. “It’s an Andrew weekend!” he yelled across the rows to a fellow diehard. Intimidating.
McMahon immediately burst into “Fire Escape”, a single from the new album which has received frequent radio airplay. The entire set consisted of him either sitting to play at the piano or jumping around stage, crowd surfing, or running in front of the barricade. He played a variety of songs that originated from every point in his career, from old Jack’s Mannequin favorites to his newer hits.
There was never a dull moment during McMahon’s set, as he is truly the master of audience interaction. I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a better show to have a spot at the barricade for, and I consider my left-center barricade position one of my highest life achievements. This first time McMahon crowd surfed (yes there was more than one time), he set sail in an inflatable rubber duck. Duck in hand and venue security in tow, he walked over to where I was standing and discussed his game plan with us. We were the ones responsible for the launch of him and his duck on their grand voyage around The Fillmore. No pressure. How anybody can manage to crowd surf and sing perfectly in tune is a mystery to me, but McMahon managed to do it while singing one of his latest songs “Don’t Speak for Me (True)”.
Some highlights throughout the set included his stripped-down cover of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream”, a rousing throwback to the Something Corporate song “I Woke Up in a Car”, and emotional renditions of the popular Jack’s Mannequin tracks “Dark Blue” and “Swim”. Of course, we can’t forget McMahon’s newer music, even when nostalgia gets the best of us. Some of the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness songs played included “Walking in My Sleep”, “High Dive”, “Shot Out of a Cannon”, and “Canyon Moon”.
Now, back to the audience interaction I will never stop speaking so highly about. For the song “Synesthesia”, McMahon took us back to our elementary school gym class days and brought out a gigantic rainbow parachute. The parachute, which spanned across almost half of the floor, was held up by fans who danced with McMahon as he meandered his way through the crowd who sang along with him.
Unfortunately, all amazing and fantastic things must end. McMahon goes out with a bang with one more crowd surf during his three-song encore. He tells us about his Amazon browse for obscure pool floats for this very purpose and surprises us with a golden dragon, which he takes for a spin during an instrumental reprise of the Jack’s Mannequin song “La La Lie”. At long last, the final song of the night is the highly-anticipated Billboard charting hit, “Cecilia and the Satellite”.
To those who may be familiar with only a small fraction of McMahon’s work, I recommend you go see him. To those who might have never heard a single song by him but know that he’s coming to your city, I recommend you go see him. Two girls who were near me during the show were actually there to see Night Riots, and told a couple that they didn’t really know any Andrew McMahon songs. They ended up having as much of a ball as the rest of us. I cannot possibly speak higher of such an artist. If you want to experience the most intimate show and the biggest party at once, go see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.