Boston makes Jack’s Mannequin feel at home

A review of Jack's Mannequin at the House of Blues on February 3, 2012

, Contributing Writer

When Jack’s Mannequin finally took the stage after 10 p.m. last Friday night at the sold-out House of Blues in Boston, the only disappointed audience members were those who had made plans to leave early. With a set of about twenty songs taken from all three of the band’s albums, little time was spent chatting, and the crowd never stopped dancing during the night of constant music.

Jack’s Mannequin is an interesting story when it comes to a show like this. What began as a side project for then-Something Corporate frontman Andrew McMahon became something much more when McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just before the release of Everything in Transit, Jack’s Mannequin’s 2005 debut album. McMahon made a full recovery and was back on the road not too long after, but the lyrical content of his follow-up record, 2008’s The Glass Passenger, and to some extent 2011’s People And Things is rather dark, despite the pop-rock instrumentals.

How would this dichotomy play out at a club packed with a fairly well inebriated crowd? The answer is extremely well. McMahon segued seamlessly from old to new, beginning the night with Transit favorite “Bruised” and moving into two of the newer tracks, “People, Running” and “Amelia Jean” to a Passenger number “Spinning” and back to the debut with “Holiday From Real”. The night went on in this manner, and perhaps because of this there was no sense of sadness in the performance despite McMahon’s emotional tonal delivery.

Putting on quite a performance even while tethered to the piano on stage for most of the show, McMahon created a show with few distracts from the concert at hand. When he did speak, it was to put a song or the night in context, mentioning that Boston was the biggest show on the tour, and had somehow become the biggest Jack’s Mannequin town despite the band’s west coast roots.

While he took the time to discuss how lucky we all are to be here on Earth and how easy it is for even him to forget, the music that followed (such as “Swim”, which McMahon wrote while he was “in a tough spot”) didn’t have any tone of depression or sappiness as it did on the album; the crowd singing along, McMahon’s energy and jovial attitude created an atmosphere that made those songs empowering.

Even encore (which elicited an apology from the band for the somewhat tired convention while thanking the crowd for inviting them back in spite of it) included variation, from the slower People And Things track “Restless Dream” to one of the band’s first and biggest hits, “Dark Blue”.

Partway through the show, McMahon mentioned he was born in nearby Concord, although he did not grow up there. But with the connection he always felt to Massachusetts and the connection people here feel to the music prompted him to wonder aloud “Maybe this is home,” and the crowd was happy to claim him as their own.

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