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Jack’s Mannequin Review: From A Distance

Posted by Charlee Redman on 10/13 at 05:36 PM

“Maybe the world will look like this forever”, sang Jack’s Mannequin pianist Andrew McMahon to a large, enthusiastic crowd Sunday night at Recreation Hall. Although the world of rich melody and pervasive energy created by the band ended all too quickly, it was a lively, sonorous retreat for a little while.

The band started off with “Dark Blue”, one of the singles from its first album Everything in Transit. A crescendo of rumbling, rolling drums crashing into the chorus could be felt even in the bleachers. They carried this energy through the entire show, both in the intensity of more subdued songs and in the fast beats of “Spinning” and “The Resolution”—selections from Jack’s Mannequins most recent album The Glass Passenger. McMahon often stood up and sat down impulsively, as if he had so much passion for the music that he just couldn’t stay confined to his stool. Later in the show, he climbed on top of his piano, singing to the audience from on high and stomping on the keys with gusto.

While the faster songs displayed the band’s animation and liveliness, it was when they slowed down and savored the harmony present in McMahon’s songwriting that they performed the best. “Swim”, another song from The Glass Passenger, was the first moment when the band came together to present a beautifully flowing melody. The swaying triple meter and stately descending piano line gave way to rippling arpeggios and guitarist Bobby Raw’s precise playing.

“Rescued” and “Me and the Moon” (a flashback to McMahon’s first band, Something Corporate) also displayed the band’s ability to create powerful, building harmonies that mirror the emotions of the lyrics. The enveloping melody of “Me and the Moon” told a domestic narrative, describing a failing relationship in which the wife finally breaks free from her husband. McMahon’s full tenor voice rose and fell with the music, declaring willfully and then gently intoning the wife’s words: “I am a butterfly, and you wouldn’t let me die.”

Two longer songs showed McMahon’s talent at the piano and Raw’s dynamic guitar parts—a side of the band not usually visible on its recordings. The two-part song “MFEO” had a bright, whimsical first section “Made for Each Other” that transitioned into the more reflective, piano-driven piece “You Can Breathe.” The clear, elegant tones and soft percussion cradled McMahon’s tenor as he briefly alluded to U2’s hit “With or Without You” in the middle of the song before returning to the rousing chorus for the last time. Another crowd favorite from Everything in Transit, “La La Lie,” featured McMahon on harmonica and a bridge passed seamlessly between the control of the piano, harmonica, and guitar.

Bobby Raw’s moment really came during the encore, in the form of an impressive solo in “American Girl,” a cover of the popular song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This focus on the guitar was one of the ways the band proved its flexibility and skill. For the most part, the live performance sounded strikingly similar to Jack’s Mannequin’s records, but variation in the delivery of the lyrics and music and an emphasis on dynamics kept the songs interesting. This similarity to the sound on the albums is a compliment to the musicians’ skills and cooperation rather than a criticism – they incorporated fresh techniques into strong material. It was, as McMahon sang in “The Mix Tape,” “a symphony of sound”.

{name} Author: Charlee Redman
Bio: Charlee Redman is currently a sophomore studying English and French at Penn State. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, making ambient noise with the local band The Roaring Kittens, walking, and drinking lots of coffee. Although she likes many styles of music, some of her favorites are folk, indie, classical, and electronic. Her favorite bands at the moment are The National, Iron & Wine, Of Montreal, and Radiohead.


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