Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Philadelphia Fillmore - Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

AM in the W took the stage Saturday night for the final stretch of a seven week stint that included New Politics, Lolo ("Miss Jackson") and The Griswolds. The sold out Wilderness set was an eclectic time capsule, a pastiche of tunes from each iteration of Andrew's past. McMahon had the crowd in an emotional whirlwind from square one, opening the show with a solo rendition of "Rainy Girl," singing to himself on a baby grand topped with faux grass and a goldfish bowl. From there the Wilderness band took the stage for a Jack's Mannequin fave, "Dark Blue," which Andy could have phoned in; like a Beatles flashback the crowd commandeered the vocals with McMahon's tinkly piano somewhere in the distance.

"Canyon Moon" was meant to carry into "Maps for the Getaway," but a technical glitch, unknown to the audience, led Andrew into story. "That's how you handle technical issues," he said, "you tell a story." Andrew, it seems, was a stalker in his old Silverlake neighborhood, sitting in a car outside his old house writing in a journal ("Parked outside the house we used to live/ There’s a light left on inside"). Kinda creepy, he admitted.

Another Jack's tune, "The Mixed Tape," set the crowd alight. Everything in Transit is this writer's choice for best of the naughts (if not the best, the most listened to), and this was a devoted crowd that thought so too. Two stellar Wilderness songs followed, "High Dive" and "Halls," followed by "Swim," the most inspired song from JM's sophomore outing. "Bloodshot" was a bit of a surprise. Never one of my faves when Passenger was released, this rendition was a show highlight, overshadowed only by an inspired arrangement of Something Corporate's "Punk Rock Princess," with the Wilderness band singing harmony around the piano. "All Our Lives," with its in-line rhymes and wonderful storytelling, would have been better suited earlier in the set, the theme of finding meaning in one's life somewhat lost in the night's frenzy. Didn't help that "La La Lie" was next up in a mish-mash of Andrew crowd surfing to the bar and a return to the stage of New Politics, Lolo and The Griswolds in a celebratory free for all. Concerts of the bands we love are special occasions, some though will have us think back timelessly to certain very special moments; this was one of those. After the expected encore, "Cecelia and the Satellite," the crowd again drowning out the band, everyone was privy to a trip back in time to grammar school as Andrew unfurled a rainbow colored parachute for a crowd ecstatic with nostalgia during second encore "Synesthesia."

Critics of Absolute Magnitude (you know, the other AM), are quick to point out that we are overly zealous about music, that we're quick to gush over what's great, indeed that we ignore what's not (well then fcuk you, then). That's Andrew McMahon in a nutshell. Here's a guy who unapologetically gushes over his audience and his craft (just don't ask that he play "Constantine"). It's the mark of a great showman. 

AM in the Wilderness is AM's choice for Artist of Year (sorry Death Cab, sorry Decemberists, sorry Modest Mouse).

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