House of Blues Boston
April 27th 2009
Last November, Jack’s Mannequin paid a visit to the Paradise Rock Club, one of Boston’s smallest and most venerable venues. On that night, Andrew McMahon and company put on a fantastic show, premiering a number of songs off their then recently released second record The Glass Passenger, while also mixing many of the favorites from their debut album, Everything in Transit. The intimate setting allowed McMahon to interact with fans throughout the night, and the crowd was as enthusiastic as any I had ever been a part of. Obviously, it would be difficult for Jack’s Mannequin to top this performance on their next trip back to Boston, which took place at the House of Blues, a venue nearly four times the sizes of the Paradise. Somehow, the band, as well as the crowd, found a way.
The night began with a half an hour set up-and-comer Erin McCarley, who was well received by the sell-out crowd that had already packed the venue. McCarley chatted with the crowd between songs and finished her set with “Pony (It’s OK),” which has received recent airplay on radio and VH1.
Next up was Matt Nathanson, the Lexington, Mass. native who has seen a great deal of success with his recent hit single “Come On Get Higher.” While most of his songs were met with casual head bobs from the crowd, it was Nathanson’s R-rated banter between songs that was the highlight of his set. From calling out a group of drunk frat boys on the balcony to comparing one of his songs to “the scene where the guy carries the girl up the tree in Twighlight,” Nathanson had the crowd in stitches for most of his set. The highlight wasn’t “Come on Get Higher,” but a song that sounded like Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl.” Nathanson began the song by saying he had stolen it from Springfield and changed the lyrics, and was likely to segue into “Jesse’s Girl” at some point, at which time the audience better sing along. Once he got to this point, most in the audience were happy to oblige. Overall, Nathanson put on a thoroughly entertaining set by making a connection with his hometown crowd, something that very few artists do well.
After a short 20 minute wait, the headliners appeared and began their set with “Crashin,” which received a luke warm reception that luckily wasn’t an indication of what the rest of the set would entail. Beginning with “The Mixed Tape,” McMahon, along with guitarist Bob Anderson, bassist Jonathan Sullivan, and drummer Jay McMillan put on one of the better performances I’ve seen in quite a while.
Most responsible for this was of course the band itself, which displayed a seemingly unlimited supply of energy throughout the night. When McMahon wasn’t pounding away at his piano, we was either on top of it, or working the crowd into a frenzy. Which brings me to the group second most responsible for the show’s success. The crowd, from the front row, to the balcony, to the back of the floor at the cavernous venue sang each and every word, sometimes even drowning out McMahon himself. The crystal clear sound at the House of Blues made for a huge improvement sound wise over their previous show at the Paradise, and the band’s light display, which included “confetti” produced by a huge spinning disco ball, created quite the visual spectacle.
While I normally like to take note of which songs sounded the best or received the biggest reception from the crowd, I can’t do that for this show, because almost every song would fall into the “amazing” category. If I had to choose two though, I would say “Bloodshot” and “I’m Ready” were the highlights of the show. The band would also include “Me and The Moon” from McMahon’s former band Something Corporate in the set, as well full versions of “MFEO/You Can Breath” and “Caves,” both of which allowed McMahon’s songwriting and showmanship skills to shine. The set was ended with “The Resolution,” and “I’m Ready,” both of which had the crowd in a state of near hysteria.
After a very short time off stage, the band returned for a two song encore, featuring “Hammer’s and Strings,” a song McMahon dedicated to his friends. The show then came to a climatic end with “La La Lie,” just as the show at the Paradise had five months earlier. The crowd left the venue and streamed out on to Lansdowne Street elated by what they had just experienced. This was my third time seeing the band in the past year, and I can honestly say they are one of the best live acts in the business today.
The Mixted Tape
Holiday From Real
Me and the Moon
MFEO/You Can Breath
Hammers and Strings
La La Lie
“On this tour we were looking to play in the smallest and most intimate venue in Boston…. And I think we found it”
To say the Paradise Rock club is a little too small for a band like Jack’s Mannequin would be quite the understatement. The band normally plays venues four to five times larger than this minuscule Boston music hall, and it was this setting, along with a great set list and strong performance from the band that would make this night special for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
While we weren’t able to catch the first act, Treaty of Paris, we were lucky enough to see FUN, the new project from former Format front man Nate Ruess. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Format and you like good music, you should become familiar with them as soon as humanly possible, because they were fantastic. You might be thinking that this paragraph contains a lot of F’s, but FUN’s set definitely deserves an A. The band, which was performing acoustic (but not solo), played two Format songs, a handful of originals, and a cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen.” The two Format songs played were “The First Single” and “She Doesn’t Get It,” both of which inspired many in the audience to sing along. The new FUN songs sounded similar to Ruess’s older work, but with such a distinct voice, it would be difficult not to. The crowd responded well to the set, often clapping along at the urging of Ruess, who said it was necessary to make up for the lack of a drummer. Based on this performance, I am already expecting quite a bit from FUN’s debut record, which is due early next year.
While FUN was a nice treat, the real stars of the show were up next, and they were Andrew McMahon and the rest of Jack’s Mannequin. Going into the night, I thought I knew what to expect. I had seen the band in August opening for Paramore, and I felt they were great live. However, I was not prepared for just how good they would be in an intimate setting like this. From the very start, the set felt different than any of my previous show experiences. While I’ve seen plenty of great bands play in very small places, this is the first one that I felt could have been occurring in my own living room. While I don’t have an older brother, and my family never had a piano, I might as well have been sitting on the couch listening to that older brother debuting his newest material and telling me all of his touring stories for good measure.
While Andrew was very talkative throughout the set and often made it a point to make eye contact with those in the audience, it was obviously the music that took center stage. McMahon commented that the band had booked such small venues so they could play their new songs before small and appreciative audiences, and that they did. The set kicked off with Crashing and Spinning, the first two tracks from The Glass Passenger. The songs inspired bobbing heads and polite applause, but it was “The Mix Tape” which finally got the crowd shouting along. The band continued to play two Glass Passenger songs and then an Everything in Transit song for most of the set. Some of the new songs, most notably “Swim” were even more impressive in this setting than they are on the CD, while others such as “Annie Get Your Telescope” seemed to temporarily dampen the energy in the room.
If you’ve ever seen Andrew McMahon perform live, you know how much he puts into each show, pounding on the keys and bouncing between his two mics. On this night he also worked in a few trips to the top of his piano and took the opportunity to interact with the crowd as much as possible, throwing paper airplanes and even jokingly (I think) chiding one fan for shouting out song requests. The highlights of the first part of the set included “Holiday From Real,” which Andrew began with just a piano melody before the entire band stepped in for the first chorus. “Bloodshot” and “Dark Blue” were also show stoppers and received huge reactions from the crowd. The band closed the set with a stirring rendition of “Caves.”
After what was a very short break, the band returned to the stage. Andrew began the encore by explaining why encores are the worst idea in rock music today, saying “even if you had been booing and throwing food, we still would have come out here and played more songs.” He then explained how a few fans he met before the show had demanded an MGMT cover, and the band granted this request, playing “Electric Feel.” The song wasn’t exactly well received by the crowd, but that was ok, because the rest of the encore surely made up for it. The band decided to play “What Gets You Off,” followed by “Cavanaugh Park,” a fan favorite from McMahon’s old band, Something Corporate. While neither song was typical encore fare, they were both great choices.
Jack’s Mannequin ended the set with two of their signature songs, current single “The Resolution,” and then Everything in Transit’s “La La Lie.” Both songs received huge reactions from the crowd, and served as the perfect culmination to a great performance. While Andrew’s sickness did not allow Jack’s Mannequin to tour in the months following the release of Everything in Transit, they are certainly taking advantage of the opportunity this time around. While it may have been tempting to play huge venues and sell as many tickets as possible, there are clear advantages to playing small clubs like this, for not only was the crowd having a great time, but it certainly seemed like the band was as well.
The Mixed Tape
Holiday From Real
Annie Use Your Telescope
Hammers and Strings
Electric Feel (MGMT cover)
What Gets You Off
La La Lie