There’s magic in the air when Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness emerges to play music for an adoring audience and that energy was crackling through the stifling heat at Marquee Theatre last week. The latest project of McMahon landed in Arizona for a special summer concert previewing their fall tour.
Marquee’s stage was set with a huge XOXO prop and McMahon’s signature battered piano as the crowd parted for a floor entrance to “Nobody Tells You When You’re Young”. The fans were beautifully respectful, allowing McMahon to roam unbothered until he rejoined his band at the front of the room. From there, it was a smorgasbord of tracks from each of McMahon’s eras, starting with Jack’s Mannequin’s “Mixtape” and “Bruised”. He didn’t forget Something Corporate, of course, and played “I Woke Up in a Car” early in the set to really fuel the nostalgia in the room.
As always, McMahon is electric onstage- leaping from his piano, jumping up from his stool to pace frantically up and down the stage and singing with an abandon that freed the audience from their inhibitions so everyone could dance and sing to their heart’s content. “Fire Escape” was the perfect tune for both dancing and singing along with “High Dive” from the band’s first album.
By this point, McMahon was completely off book from the original setlist and let the music simply flow through the band into the audience for “Synesthesia” and the classic Jack’s Mannequin song “Dark Blue” (the happiest sad song ever written). The main set closed with “Cecelia and the Satellite” before everyone cleared out to prepare for the encore.
With such a special, intimate show, the band brought out “Last Straw, AZ” for the first encore song- a debut that had more than a few eyes sparkling with joy in the crowd. McMahon also flipped the normally upbeat “Punk Rock Princess” into a piano ballad, helmed this time by guitarist Bobby Anderson.
Still chuckling from Anderson’s turn on the microphone, McMahon brought out his signature llama pool floaty to go crowd surfing to the final song of the night. The audience turned themselves into an unstoppable wave, cruising McMahon to the back of the room before returning him to the stage for a final bow from atop his piano.
Arizona has always been a hub for McMahon’s various projects and with the turnout on Friday, it’s obvious that it will continue to be such a stop for years to come. If we can’t have the ocean, we’ll be happy to make our own for McMahon to surf in perpetuity.
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Story and photos by Olivia Khiel