Mannequin Returns To HOB
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
As part of the second leg of their People and Things tour, piano-rock band Jack's Mannequin played a completely sold out show this past Friday night at the House of Blues in Boston.
The evening began with a performance by the Allen Stone Band. The lead singer, with his long, blond, West Coast hair, wrinkled flannel, and big, black, plastic-framed glasses, won the audience over with his smooth, soulful voice. Though it certainly wasn't the kind of band fans expected to see opening for Jack's, they were entertained nonetheless as the band sang their songs "Celebrate Tonight," "Sleep," and "Satisfaction."
After a half hour of groovy, soul music, the band Juke Box the Ghost took the stage next. Characterized by crazy piano riffs, funky synth sounds, and steady drumbeats, Juke Box made the whole crowd dance to their spacy-piano rock tunes. With eccentric energy and quirky style, the band performed several of its' new songs as well of some of its singles, including "Schizophrenia," "Empire," and "So Let Us Create."
Finally, the venue went dark. The anxious anticipation of the crowd was tangible, as everyone awaited Jack's Mannequin front man, Andrew McMahon, to take his seat at his baby grand Baldwin piano. With luminous paper lanterns, warm, glowing lamps, and two scintillating, giant disco balls, the venue was intimate and personal. Bright blue light bulbs hung individually in the air, twinkling and making the set light up beautifully.
All of a sudden, a recognizable rift could be heard, and the audience screamed enthusiastically, as McMahon began the show with the song "Bruised" from the band's first album, Everything in Transit. Throughout the night, Jack's played a well-thought-out selection of songs from all three of their records, rather than just performing the entirety of their newest release, People and Things. With six songs from each of their first two albums and eight songs from their last, every fan was sure to be content.
Fans definitely loved hearing tracks from the new album live, as they were fresh and novel, and it was evident that McMahon enjoyed playing them. He performed the popular ones, such as "My Racing Thoughts," and "Amy I," but he also played some of the smaller tracks off the record, like "People Running." The song "Television" was interesting to see live because it relies heavily on synth effects, unlike the rest of their songs, but somehow, Jack's rose to the challenge. Two of the best songs the band played from People and Things were "Release Me" and "Amelia Jean." Both tracks have powerful, rhythmic hooks, a quality that makes those songs perfect for performing live.
Even with a 20-song set list, McMahon never tired—he was the epitome of vitality and animation, banging away on his keys and jumping off his piano. McMahon's liveliness truly was infectious, especially during old-time fan favorite "Holiday From Real," as the entire crowd screamed its infamous chorus in unison. When McMahon left his piano bench for the song "Bloodshot," the energy was just as high, and during the song "Spinning," a catchy, pop track with an irresistible hook, everyone couldn't help but jump and dance along.
Such performances clearly allowed McMahon to demonstrate his ability to rev up an audience, but other songs that he played were poignant and emotional and touched the audience's hearts. The song "Lullaby," for example, a simple, beautiful song, gave McMahon the opportunity to reveal his vulnerability to fans and to relate to them in a sincere, personal way. He also played the single "Swim" off The Glass Passenger, a powerful, encouraging song about "swimming for brighter days, despite the absence of sun." One of the most touching performances of the evening, though, was when the band played "Hey, Hey, Hey (We're All Gonna Die)." Perhaps because it was one of the most difficult songs for McMahon to write it was incredibly emotional to see him play it live. As the crowd sang along to McMahon's gentle, crooning voice, it was almost as if everyone had become just a little bit closer.
After 90 minutes of nonstop piano rock, the band left the stage, leaving the audience to beg and plead for an encore. McMahon, being his ever generous and kind self, returned alone and sat in front of the crowd. He continued by thanking Boston from the bottom of his heart for making everything possible, and he explained that they had included all of the songs that they were going to play as an encore in the set. Because this was the largest stop on the tour, however, he promised three more. For the diehard fans, he played "Dark Blue" and "La La Lie," basic set list requirements of any Jack's concert, and refreshingly, he chose to perform the acoustic song "Restless Dream," which was a lovely way to end the night.
There are few bands that consistently put on an amazing show, but Jack's Mannequin never ceases to please, and McMahon, with his relatable lyrics, musical talent, and gentle spirit, does so—all from behind his piano.