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Show Review: Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness and Dashboard Confessional bring their joyous summer tour to AZ

Live music made its return in 2021 and even now, more than a year after the first tentative shows, bands and fans are finding every opportunity to soak it all in. Andrew McMahon and The Wilderness and Dashboard Confessional took their gratitude on the road this summer, closing out a monster tour at Arizona Financial Theatre on Wednesday.

The Juliana Theory, another staple of scene days past, opened the evening to a sparse but enthusiastic crowd. Despite sound issues plaguing the first few songs, the dapper five-piece absolutely smashed their short set and kicked off the nostalgia for the night.

Dashboard Confessional made the show their very own emo night, using The Killers’ iconic “Mr. Brightside” as their walkup music. Singer Chris Carrabba warmed things up with an acoustic rendition of “The Brilliant Dance” before the rest of the band joined in for a rousing set. The band was visibly elated to be onstage and made it very clear that they’re having just as much fun belting their own emo staples as the crowd was. 

Carrabba expressed deep gratitude more than once, smiling ear to ear during even the saddest tunes. As it was the last night of the tour, McMahon and his band all dressed up like Spiderman and crashed the stage during “Vindicated”, prompting Carrabba to laugh so hard he very nearly couldn’t finish the song. Naturally, “Screaming Infidelities” was the campfire sing-a-long moment of the set before we closed things out with “Hands Down”- and it was indeed the best night we could remember in a long while.

When we spoke with McMahon a few weeks back, he waxed poetic about the incredible time that everyone’s had on this summer run and the joy was abundant on that stage. In his 20 years spent touring, McMahon and company have amassed a wide catalog of fan favorites and we were fully indulged with their chosen setlist. 

McMahon took us on a trip down memory lane with his own “High Dive” before diving right into Something Corporate’s “I Woke Up in a Car” and “Cavanaugh Park”. Jack’s Mannequin was well-represented on opener “Bruised” and the tearjerker “Dark Blue” towards the end of the set. 

McMahon was the center of it all, pounding the keys on his road worn piano and crowd surfing on a giant duck-shaped pool float. The stage was awash in color as he donned a cape of rainbow lights before launching into the band’s latest single “Stars”. 

“Do you have a little time on your hands?” he said with a laugh right as the opening notes of “Konstantine” filled the room to the delight of old school fans everywhere.

As we reached the end of the night, McMahon echoed Carrabba’s earlier words about the magic of this tour and his gratitude at being back on the road in such a large capacity- moving many in the audience to tears of joy. Naturally the sentimentality was broken up by Dashboard Confessional doing their own stage crashing during “Fire Escape” as the fans laughed and sang their hearts out. Carrabba also joined the band for a stunning performance of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.

The final song found the theatre awash in rainbow lights as McMahon launched himself into the audience to sing “Synesthesia” with the fans. 

It was a long night but one that brought so much happiness to the diehard fans that filled the seats. McMahon exited with a “see you next year!” so it’s safe to say that we’ll be counting down the days.

Check out all the photos from the show!

Story and photos by Olivia Khiel

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