Andrew McMahon is no stranger to Cleveland: His former bands Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate have always made the city a staple of their tours. Now a solo artist playing under the moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, the songwriter/pianist continues to play Cleveland on a regular basis. His fans certainly reciprocate the love: Last night at a comfortably packed House of Blues, a boisterous audience shouted along with both beloved old favorites (Jack's Mannequin's "Dark Blue," "The Resolution," Something Corporate's "Cavanaugh Park," "Watch The Sky") and the expansive, pop-singed songs from the recently released Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
While these new songs are a marked progression—for example, the almost R&B-electro feel of "Halls" allowed McMahon to stretch his voice, and single "Cecilia and the Satellite" boasted booming keyboards —they ultimately fit seamlessly with the rest of McMahon's catalog live. In particular, the sparse "Rainy Girl," dreamy synthpop tune "Maps For The Getaway" and driving, pulsating "Canyon Moon" stood out. Credit for this integration goes in part to the newest addition to McMahon's band, keyboardist/vocalist Zac Clark, who added the perfect amounts of harmonic and synthesizer backbone.
But McMahon also took liberties (in the best possible ways) with some of his older songs, adding an a cappella vocal bridge to Something Corporate's "I Woke Up In A Car," doing a fist-pumping version of Jack's Mannequin's "The Resolution" and a slightly different, slower arrangement of that band's "Bruised," prefaced by a hilarious story about its inclusion on the Snakes On A Plane soundtrack. And he even brought out Cleveland-via-California resident Jim Wirt, who produced many of his earlier songs, to play on the always-communal experience "Holiday From Real."
Of course, the show featured plenty of McMahon signature trademarks, from jumping on the piano for effect to funny stage banter (which last night focused on his new pants). And during a ramshackle—again in the best way –"La La Lie," McMahon addressed the crowd and said, "I consider it a blessing to play music for a living." That passion and enthusiasm have always been a hallmark of his career, and yesterday's House of Blues show was no exception.