Jack’s Mannequin, Matt Thiessen – November 11th, 2012, El Ray Theater, Las Angeles
Farewell shows are tricky. When is the last time you heard someone say “I can’t wait to see my favorite band breakup and play their last show”? Unless Weezer was involved, the answer is probably “never”. Unfortunately, breakups happen, and once the shock of the split has passed, the rush to grab tickets to the farewell performance begins.
The news that Jack’s Mannequin was calling it a career after seven very successful years did not come as a surprise to those who followed the band. Lead singer/mastermind Andrew McMahon had hinted that the band would be disbanded in numerous interviews prior to the announcement, and even the most die-hard fans had to admit that the Jack’s Mannequin moniker had had a pretty good run.
Starting as a Something Corporate side project in 2005, the group’s debut album Everything In Transit had struck pop-rock gold, helping to swell McMahon’s already sizable fan base and generating radio and TV success with lead single “The Mixed Tape.” This success came despite the fact that McMahon was busy battling leukemia when the album was released.
After winning the battle and hitting the road to promote the album, the band’s success would continue through the release of 2008’s The Glass Passenger and 2011’s People And Things.
Speculation as to why the band was calling it quits didn’t revolve around the typical factors. For one, it has always been understood that McMahon is the man in change and controls the artistic direction of the band. It is therefore unlikely internal strife played much of a role. While the group’s meteoric rise had slowed a bit of late, People And Things had been well received by fans, and the ensuing tours had sold out large clubs around the country.
According to McMahon’s rather cryptic breakup message, it seemed that he was simply tired of writing songs as Jack’s Mannequin, and instead wanted the freedom that a solo career would bring. He had gone on record as saying that he would continue to play JM songs at live performances, so the farewell shows the band scheduled for November 11th and 12th in Los Angeles weren’t exactly the last time we would hear from McMahon.
In addition to being the band’s last two performances, these shows would serve as a benefit for the Dear Jack Foundation, which McMahon had created in 2006 to help fight the effects of young adult cancer. The two nights would end up raising a very impressive $50,000 for the charity.
I was lucky enough to score tickets to what was originally scheduled to be the final JM show on 11/11. The second show was added after ticket sales for the first night crashed servers and caused an uproar among fans who hoped to catch one last glimpse of the band.
Our tickets allowed us the chance to see the band’s sound check before the show, which was a 45 minute affair where the band played a number of complete songs and parts of others. McMahon joked with the crowd during the session and then signed autographs afterwards. It was a great way to give fans more access the band while raising money for the foundation. Tracks included “The Mixed Tape,” “Spinning”, “Annie Use Your Telescope” “Amy I”, “Bloodshot” and pieces of “Restless Dream”, “Hammers And Strings,” And “MFEO”.
Once the entire crowd made their way inside the 700-person capacity El Ray Theater, the night began with a set from Matt Thiessen. The Reliant K front man was the only opener, and he said he was “honored” to be joining JM for their final performances.
Thiessen started off on the piano with a handful of Reliant K tracks that many in the crowd seemed familiar with, including “Be My Escape” And “Sadie Hawkins.” He then moved from the piano to an acoustic guitar to perform a number of solo tracks he had recently written, including the country-inspired “Pot of Gold”, which earned quite a reaction from the audience. To close his set, Thiessen was joined on stage by Jack’s Mannequin guitarist Bobby Anderson for a cover of Toto’s “Africa.” Anderson expertly hit the high notes during the song’s instantly recognizable chorus, and the pair received a big ovation as they left the stage.
Between sets, Dear Jack Foundation Executive Director Steve Smith appeared to thank the fans for their support and to give an update on the charity. He introduced Erik Cwiertney, representing the Matt Cwiertney Memorial Foundation, a charity that provides cancer patients iPods with pre-loaded playlists that include artists such as McMahon, Dave Hause, Matt Costa, and many others. Cwiertney explained the “Matt’s Mixed Tape” iPod program and thanked the Dear Jack foundation for their support of the endeavor.
Shortly afterwards, the red curtain that had blocked the stage was drawn, revealing Jack’s Mannequin, already at their posts and ready to start the show with “Holiday From Real.” Beginning with the opening track from their debut album, this was the perfect way to start the night. The band would stick with upbeat, early album tracks until the show’s fifth song, “Annie Use Your Telescope” slowed things down a bit.
Thiessen made his way back on stage for “Amy I,” which McMahon explained the two had written together during their time together at Thiessen’s Nashville home. Thiessen was not the set’s only special guest, as the band was also joined by original bassist Jonathan Sullivan, aka “Dr. J.” for a number of songs, including the bass heavy crowd favorite “Bloodshot.”
While there were few surprises in the setlist, the band displayed more energy than I had ever seen them bring to a show, and the addition of Thiessen’s second guitar on a number of songs only added to the atmosphere. The crowd returned the group’s energy, singing along and cheering loudly at the conclusion of every song.
“Hammers And Strings” and “Dark Blue” would serve as the final two songs of the set. While both tracks have been live staples for years, these farewell performances seemed to breathe new life into both. After the band left the stage, the crowd begged for more, and McMahon and company were happy to oblige.
Before playing the first song of the encore, McMahon addressed what he called the “elephant in the room”. He apologized for the fact that this was not the final JM show, as originally promised, and he justified it by saying the second night had raised an additional $25,000. McMahon then said he had a special treat or “giant bear hug” for the crowd, and while he admitted it might seem blasphemous, he quietly kicked into marathon Something Corporate hit “Konstantine.” The crowd roared its approval, their initial gripes now forgotten. McMahons promised the band absolutely would not play the song the next night.
At the conclusion of the nine and half minute epic, the band would then play an epic of their own, the eight minute “MFEO/You Can Breathe Now”. This snapped the crowd out of their Konstantine trance, and the momentum carried into the final song of the night, “La La Lie”.
As the band made their way off stage, there wasn’t the sense of finality that you would expect from this type of show. Of course, this was due to the fact that the band would have one more at bat the next night, but it can also be attributed to the fact that everyone knows McMahon’s musical career is far from over. This hadn’t stopped many in attendance from going very far out of their way to be in attendance, as McMahon noted that he had talked to more fans from the East Coast than from the West Coast.
This is evidence of the type of connection Jack’s Mannequin had built with their fans in just seven years. While it’s a shame that that legacy will disappear along with the name, this series of benefit shows seemed like the perfect way to celebrate that legacy and close this chapter of McMahon’s career.
If you’re interested in donating to the Dear Jack Foundation and increasing that $50,000 total, visit http://www.dearjackfoundation.com/donate/
Short version: Jack’s mannequin played a show in Boston. They were great. They normally are. You should seem them live. But if you missed this show, you’ might be out of luck.
Slightly Extended version: On Friday night, Jack’s Mannequin brought down the house, again. They were making their first proper Boston appearance since the release of their third album, People and Things, and with a history of memorable area appearances, everyone in attendance knew they were in for a great show. Just one question lingered, and likely won’t be answered for some time: was this the band’s final time playing in the city?
In a recently published interview with Andrew McMahon, the band’s frontman/mastermind had, in a vague, artist speak kind of way hinted that the band had run its course. He said the project wasn’t as enjoyable as it once had been, and it might just be time to move on. This didn’t come as a complete surprises when you considering McMahon originally intended Jack’s to be a one-off side project, and it was now going into its seventh year. Also, Places and Thing, despite being a solid album, didn’t receive the type of enthusiastic reception the band’s first two efforts had.
While McMahon didn’t acknowledge the future of the band during the show, and most in the crowd were probably unaware of these comments, those who did know realized this could be the end of something special. If this tour is indeed the last hurrah, the band demonstrated they plan to go out swinging.
The night opened with a set from Allen Stone (which I missed). Philadelphia three-piece Jukebox the Ghost then took the stage. Their forty-five minute set was relatively well received by the crowd, which at this point had already packed the House of Blues.
Jack’s Mannequin kicked off their set with “Bruised” from debut album Everything in Transit. While the band had plenty of new material to show off, this older favorite had the crowd singing along so loudly McMahon had to battle to be heard.
While it quickly became obvious from the set list this was the People and Things tour, McMahon and Co. did a good job of mixing in songs from their first two records alongside new tracks such as “Release Me”, “Amy, I”, and “Amelia Jean.”
While these new songs didn’t receive quite the reaction that many of the older tracks did, most of them were more impressive and packed more of a punch than they do on the record. McMahon has said that People and Things was recorded as more of a full band effort and less as a solo project, and this seemed to benefit the group’s live show. In an ideal world, the band’s performance of “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)” and “People Running” alone should boost sales of the new record by at least a few hundred copies next week. It probably won’t happen, but both of these tracks were show-stoppers.
Good record sales or not, McMahon’s stage presence is second to none. Even in a cavernous venue packed with 2,000 people, you couldn’t help but feel like he was playing you songs in his living room. The stage set up didn’t hurt, for the band was surround by household lamps and blue light bulbs suspended above the stage. At other times, two giant “mirror balls” (as McMahon described them) set the venue awash in light.
The rest of the band’s set didn’t feature any real curve balls. “Bloodshot” “Holiday From Real” and clos
to the encore, the band returned to the stage to perform the acoustic track “Restless Dream,” which they followed by “My Racing Thoughts” ( although I could be wrong on that one though).ing number “Dark Blue” all received huge reactions from the crowd, as they always do. Never ones to skimp when it comes
to do it.Finally, the band would bring the night to a close with “La La La Lie”, another Everything in Transit staple. Basked in confetti and “mirror ball” light, the band would make their way off the House of Blues stage for what very well could have been the final time. If this in fact was the last Boston appearance, going out with a superb set in front of an ecstatic sellout crowd isn’t a bad way
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
I’ve always liked “Best Of” lists, but I’ve always had a lot of trouble compiling my own. In 2005, I made a list of the year’s 25 best records and gave a reason why for each. I’m not nearly that ambitious anymore, and I certainly didn’t hear 25 albums worthy of making such a list this year. That is why I’m going to present you with my Top Ten of 2008. I know, they are completely subjective and you might think all of these records such, but that’s ok, because everything on this list captured my imagination and reminded me why I still buy cds, at least for a little while. So here they are:
1) The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. Simply an amazing record that captures the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, modern day punk, and everything in between.
2) Fall Out Boy, Folie a’ Deux. It’s hard to justify putting a band like Fall Out Boy on this list, but they’ve simply never let me down. Folie a’ Deux is pure genious.
3) The Matches, A Band in Hope. The most creative and original band I listen to somehow manages to “out-weird” their previous efforts.
4) Alkaline Trio, Agony and Irony. Openning track “Calling All Skeletons” is easily my favorite of the year. I listened to this record non-stop all summer.
5) The Academy Is… Fast Times At Barrington High. Never would I have though this band would make it’s way on to a list like this after their laughable last record, but Fast Times was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
6) Bayside, Shudder. Classic Bayside.
7) Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger. I still haven’t decide if I like this or their debut record better, but both are excellent.
8. Funeral For A Friend, Memory and Humanity. The band’s top-notch guitar and drum work is aided by pristine production and Matt Davies’ simple yet supurb song writing skills. This record is a huge step back in the right direction after 2007’s disapointing Tales Don’t Tell Themselves.
9) Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends. I never liked Coldplay in the past, but this record changed that instantly. It’s refreshing to see a band achieve the success that they deserve.
10) Valencia, We All Need A Reason To Believe. This is one of those records that, on the surface seems like another happy and upbeat pop-punk record, but on the surface turns out to be much darker.
“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
August 30th, 2008
Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit is easily one of my all time favorite records. After picking it up on the day it came out, I listened to it constantly for about six months, and I’ll still periodically go though stages where I’ll spin it for weeks on end. The only thing I don’t like about Jack’s Mannequin is the fact that they had somehow avoided me for so long. I didn’t think this was right or fair, but I was able to forgive them when they announced a show on the last day of summer opening for Paramore at the Chevy Theatre in Wallingford, about 15 minutes from my house.
First of all, I have to mention that the Chevy Theatre isn’t a venue these bands would normally play. For one, it has seats, and lot of them. It normally hosts comedians, theatre performances, and bands that cater to a more “mature” audience. However, with the first section of seats removed to create a pit and a packed house, the atmosphere was much better than I expected, and with the pit being pretty small, I was able to get pretty close despite missing the openning band and arriving just as Phantom Planet took the stage.
Best know for their 2002 hit (and O.C. theme song) “California,” Phantom Planet recently released their fourth full length album “Raise the Dead” and played a set consisting of what I believe were songs mainly from that record. While I’m not familiar with them, I though they played a very solid set. While most in the crowd were only familiar with “California,” the band was able to keep them quite interested throughout. At one point, the band was joined on stage by members of the tours other bands. This included an appearance by Jack’sMannequin lead singer Andrew McMahon wearing a dress and playing guitar. It was of course, the last night of the tour, so none of this was surprising.
Next up was the band I’ve waited so long to see, and they certainly didn’t disapoint. While their set was (of
course) too short, the songs they did play sounded simply amazing. They opened with “I’m Ready,” and even though I’ve watched plenty of live videos of Adrew juggling his duties as front-man and piano player, I’m still amazed by how well he does it. In my (very biased) opinion, I think Jack’s stole the show, playing all of their songs with such energy and enthusiasm it was impossible for the crowd not to be completely in to the set. The band played one new song from their upcoming album The Glass Passenger, that being the first single “The Resolution.” Tt was flawless and a definite highlight of the night. Jack’s finished with a superb rendition of “Made For Each Other/You Can Breathe Now,” which included Andrew not only adding a few Police lyrics, but also climbing up on the piano at one point and then stomping on the keys before leaving the stage.
Jack’s Mannequin set list (in no particular order, because I can’t remember it)
La La Lie
Kill The Messenger
The Mixed Tape
And next of course was Paramore, who, based on the huge crowd, is really really big these days. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion that, overall, their set was good. However, left near the end of it. Now, I know this is a no-no, but I was at the back of a parking lot approximately the size of my home town, and I had to leave for school early the next morning, and I still had to pack. So… ok those really aren’t great excuses, but anyway, they did put on a very good show. But “good” was more of an average, for I though some of it was great, and some of it was decidedly less so. I like Paramore, especially their last record, but I’m certainly not their biggest fan, so that may have been one of the reasons I though some of their songs fell flat. Others like “That’s What You Get,” “For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” “Emergecy” and “Pressure” were show stoppers. While the ramps leading leading up to the top of the stage set-up were a little bit much, I thought the band sounded very good musically, and Haley does have a great voice. The crowd seemed to eat up every word she said in between songs, and a highlight of the set was when she described how touring with Andrew McMahon was dream come true, just before he joined her on stage to play keyboard.
By leaving early, I’m sure I missed the encore and another round of end-of-the-tour hijinks, but I was quite
satisified by what I had already seen. While Jack’s Mannequin’s stole the show, I was impressed by Phantom Planet and Paramore, two bands I hadn’t even been familair with before the tour. While I would certainly see both of them again, the idea of a Jack’s Mannequin fall headlining tour, which is soon to be announced, has me salavating like one of Pavlov’s dogs. And with that, I have achived two long-standing goals: seeing Jack’s Mannequin, and working a refence to Pavlov’s dogs into a show review.