Andrew McMahon has the power to be in several places at once. Simultaneously a pop-punk piano man, an inspirational leukemia survivor and the object of many 14-year-old girls’ desires, McMahon is taking his show on the road again before settling down to record his third studio album for his solo project, Jack’s Mannequin.
Originally the frontman for piano rock band Something Corporate, McMahon founded Jack’s Mannequin as a side project for his more personal stories. Fans of the band are hoping that the third time’s a charm with Jack’s, as their first album, “Everything in Transit,” was released just months after McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and their sophomore release, “The Glass Passenger,” also faced a series of delays in 2009.
While his work with Something Corporate focused more on reckless fun and teenage heartbreak, McMahon’s solo break represented a more mature and developed side of the singer-songwriter. Dealing with more serious themes like a changing home and body, “Everything in Transit” and “The Glass Passenger” seem more like a narrative of McMahon’s journey to hell and back and a tribute to his resilience and the loyalty of his fans.
This spring, McMahon plans to follow his tour with a trip to the studio to record the band’s third album, which he hopes to release in the fall. Until then, though, the band is concentrating on putting together their live show.
Joined by guitarist Bobby Anderson, bassist Jonathan Sullivan and drummer Jay McMillan, McMahon’s reputation as a performer precedes him. Famous for being unable to sit in his seat — even while at the piano bench — McMahon brings as much energy to the Jack’s shows as he did back in his Something Corporate days. This is partially because the frontman’s swagger, flare and continuous, genuine gratitude keep audiences invested. This is also because when they go to a Jack’s Mannequin show, they mean it — and not just in the screaming 12-year-old girl way (although 12-year-old girls do tend to be present at the shows).
Fans at any Jack’s show will range from everyone in your high school and their mothers (literally) to college students trying to have a good time at the 9:30 club to die-hard Something Corporate fans dying for a taste of McMahon’s earlier work. And no matter who you are or why you’re there, McMahon delivers. More than just a punky, smirking boy trying to have fun, McMahon also showcases his quieter side, revisiting old piano ballads like “Cavanaugh Park.” His new work also provides for added drama, per the seven-minute “Caves,” an epic and dizzying tale of drowning in and surfacing from terminal hopelessness.
Severe personal affliction aside, though, what really keeps McMahon’s audiences so invested is his undying gratitude to his fans. Often musicians who achieve such star status give performances that are little more than going through the motions to fill overpriced seats, but not McMahon. Grateful for his every day and his every fan, McMahon is not just a performer — he is a survivor.
Jack’s Mannequin will be in the District on Wednesday, March 3 when they play the 9:30 club with opening acts fun., Vedera and Sunday’s Roulette.
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