Concert Recap: Jack’s Mannequin

Shortly before Leisure Cruise took the stage last Thursday at the Royale in Boston, MA as the opening act for Jack’s Mannequin on the 10-year Anniversary tour for Everything In Transit, I realized that following that show, I’ve seen Andrew McMahon perform live with each of his three major projects. I saw Something Corporate reunited at Bamboozle New Jersey in 2010, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness at a free show in Providence last August, and now, completing the trifecta, I saw him perform with Jack’s Mannequin last week. Andrew McMahon’s music has always held a very special place in my heart, but his work with Jack’s Mannequin — particularly Everything In Transitremains dearest to me, even a decade after the album’s release.

Seeing this album performed top to bottom at one of my favorite Boston venues (small, intimate, with incredible lighting and a fantastic overall atmosphere) was a really emotional experience. All through Leisure Cruise’s set, I felt a sense of anticipation and nervousness that was unexpected. I couldn’t help but think, what if seeing this album live somehow ruins the magic? What if my attachment to Jack’s Mannequin is somehow related to never having seen these songs performed live? Of course, these questions were ridiculous. Last summer, McMahon performed several JM songs during the soundcheck for the free Providence show, and I cried my way through “Bruised” even when he forgot my favorite lyric. (“So, read your books / but stay out late some nights / some nights / and don’t think that you can’t stop by the bar.”)

When Jack’s Mannequin took the stage, all the nervousness dropped out of my body to be replaced with a kind of euphoria that I don’t think I can put into words. There’s something very, very unique about hearing songs that have gotten you through every major period of change in your life not only performed live, but sung by an audience full of people who are just as passionate about the music as you. McMahon is an incredibly dynamic performer. He never stops moving and gets so into the music that it’s hard not to watch him run around and kick over his piano stool and jump on top of his piano and dance around the stage like he’s been possessed by the beat. His brief speeches between songs were endearing and heartfelt. The whole show felt like such a trip down memory lane for everyone there, but also like a refreshing look at the future. “Fuck yeah, we can live like this” is a line that’s stuck with me since the first time I heard it in “Holiday from Real” but after Thursday night, it resonates in a way it never has before.

Everything In Transit is my favorite album of all time. I associate it with memories and emotions and people and places and things; it’s been a pervasive influence on me since it dropped in 2005. I mentioned in a post about the anniversary vinyl package that in the last 10 years, my life has (obviously) changed in really significant ways. I’ve moved across the country, graduated from college, started and restarted my career, worked my way through a serious relationship that went up in flames, and met the person I want to spend the rest of my life loving. Everything In Transit has been my go-to album through all of that, whether I was pleased with my life or getting close to done with it. It was especially incredible to see this album performed in its entirety standing right next to my partner, AR, because it means so much to both of us.

It’s a night I won’t forget, but not just because of the music. As I said, McMahon is a super dynamic performer; he’s almost magnetic, in a way, so captivating that it’s difficult to look away. But during “Dark Blue” (one of my favorite songs from the album), I don’t think I looked at the stage even once. I spent the song looking at my partner, who chose the bridge of the song (“We were boxing / we were boxing the stars”) to ask me to marry them. I said yes, of course, of course, oh my god, yes, and then we spent the rest of the song in each other’s arms. In fact, we spent the rest of the concert in each other’s arms. I wasn’t fully tuned into what was happening on stage again until McMahon invited friends on stage for “La La Lie”, and even then I was so giddy I could barely pay attention.

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The rest of the show felt like a dream. So many of our friends have (playfully) mocked us for being so cliche, but — I couldn’t have asked for a better-timed, more heartfelt proposal. We’re getting married! AHHH! And although I’d planned on putting several Jack’s Mannequin songs on the playlist for our wedding reception well before we ever attended this show, now it feels like I  must. I’m never going to hear “Dark Blue” without blushing again. Hearing it just a few days after the show actually brought tears to my eyes. I love, love, love that this album continuously narrates major changes in my life. I love how much positivity it’s brought me. I love my fiancé. I love everything, honestly. Wow.

Once the band finished playing Everything In Transit (complete with the original audio recordings of McMahon speaking, which gave me chills), they didn’t leave the stage. They played several more songs from the band’s discography and decided to ignore the traditional gap between the end of the actual set and the beginning of the encore. McMahon said it felt like a “waste” to wander off stage for five minutes so the crowd could beg the band to come back on for another song, so instead the band stayed and played the encore and the energy in the room never dissipated even once.

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For its final hurrah, the band played a cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, during which McMahon crowd-surfed. It was such a fun end to the show. I almost wish we had stuck around after to try to meet the band (and to tell McMahon thanks, for everything), but I figure there will be more opportunities in the future. We’re planning to see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness every time they’re in the neighborhood, from here on out. We’ll see McMahon’s future projects, too.

I can’t believe it’s been over a decade since my favorite album was released and I only just got to see the band live last week. It also feels amazing, though, because that night will be forever etched in my memory as the one of best of my life. (I think our wedding will have to top the list. Check back with me in 2018 and I’ll let you know.)

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