Last Night: Jack's Mannequin at House of Blues

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Jack's Mannequin
House of Blues
February 17, 2010

Better than: spending a day sweaty and dehydrated, getting trampled and crowd-surfed on at Warped Tour.

It's incredibly cliché to say, but you'd never know Andrew McMahon survived Leukemia if you got the chance to see one of his shows.

From the opening chords of "Crashin" to the final notes of "We Were Made For Each Other/You Can Breathe" that finished out the encore at the end of the set, the energy created by McMahon and his band at last night's House of Blues show never waned.

Jack's Mannequin, Andrew's side project from his successful Something Corporate flagship, has only released two full-length albums in its fledgling career (2005's Everything in Transit and 2008's The Glass Passenger), and has been almost unheard of since its last string of tour dates. That's because, after being diagnosed with cancer, Andrew took a hiatus from performing to get well.

But, ever since, he's been a man on a mission to take back every moment cancer stole from him--even last night. And, for whatever reason, at the band's first ever performance at the House of Blues in Dallas, McMahon chose last night's setting to announce that his band will be entering the studio in the next few months to record its third release.

Maybe the audience just made him feel comfortable: The majority of the crowd energy generated at Wednesday night's show came from the sold-out slew of Urban Outfitter's catalog model wannabes on the main floor. Clad in as many pairs of skinny jeans, sweater vests, and dark rimmed glasses they could get their hands on, these "cheap seats" attendees offered the kind of vibe one would want to experience at a piano rock driven show; the balcony's scene, meanwhile, seemed almost catatonic.

That much was a bit odd, as McMahon did his part to keep things varied. He spent the evening going back and forth from dominating his piano, to running the stage or taking the occasional moment to stand atop his instrument. His energy was infectious, and that was only mirrored by his band's output.

The biggest moment came midway through the set, when the band offered up "Dark Blue." From then on, hands and bodies flailed freely for the rest of the night.

"You guys look vibrant tonight," McMahon told the crowd at the end of "The Mixed Tape."

And whether or not setting the mood was his intention, that declaration seemed to set the tone of the rest of the evening. Save one passionate decry on behalf of Conan O'Brien's now defunct late-night talk show, the frontman spent the entire evening riveting and rocking the crowd with chords, riffs, and lyrics that spoke not only of life, but of love and of struggle that he knows more about than any average person should.

And though the crowd waited with bated breath to see if any former hits from Something Corporate would emerge from the set list, those never came. And that was kind of a shame: The disappointment from the crowd was audible as the venue emptied at the end of the show.

But consider that just a small blemish--arguably the only thing wrong with Jack's Mannequin's performance Wednesday.

Cancer or not, new project or not, this show offered a fresh and lively sampling of Jack's Mannequin's style and potential--and all the piano-rock that comes along with it.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Jack's Mannequin is my roommate's favorite band. I've always been a throwback fan of Something Corporate's. Andrew's contribution to that band is the only reason I ever gave Jack's Mannequin a chance.

By the way: "Swim" was the first song of Jack's encore and one that almost sent the crowd to tears--this girl included. His lyrical plea that, "you gotta swim, swim in the dark," nuanced the poignancy of a cancer survivor in that moment... more so than McMahon and his sole piano probably ever fully intended.

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