Live Reviews

Jacks Mannequin – Live

Kings College
10th March 2009

They say absence makes the heart grown fonder, and the queue of hundreds of people lined up through the streets by Kings College is testament to the fact that Andrew McMahon has been sorely missed. The Jacks Mannequin/Something Corporate front man has kept us waiting for almost six years for his return to London, and JM’s first ever UK show sold out in a matter of hours.

It’s been a rocky road for 26 year old McMahon; having enjoyed steady success on both sides of the Atlantic with Something Corporate, he developed side project Jack’s Mannequin, but months before the release of their debut album ‘Everything in Transit‘ he was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukaemia, and music was put on hold whilst he underwent treatment including a bone marrow transplant.

Sophomore album ‘The Glass Passenger‘ deals with McMahon’s illness, his hopes and fears translated into an emotional journey filled with stunning melodies and some heart wrenching lyrics. Tonight’s crowds are witness to the fact that despite his long absence from our shores, his fan base are still at faithful as ever.

Without a support band Jacks Mannequin take to the stage to deafening cheers, McMahon grins from ear to ear and throws himself headlong into ‘Crashing‘. Picking and choosing from both albums he whips the crowd up into a frenzy, crouched over his keyboards, thundering away on the keys. ‘Swim’ is an ‘I will survive’ moment with the lines “I swim to brighter days, despite the absence on sun, choking on salt water. I’m not giving in. I swim…” a stark reminder of his recent fight. ‘American Love’ is a pop treat, with ‘big hearts, big hearts…were made to be broken’ getting the crowds dancing, whilst the ‘Holiday From Real‘, with its tales of buying pot from the lesbians on Venice Beach, dazzles with enough California sunshine that you can almost feel the rays.

McMahon, flanked by Bobby Anderson on guitar (who is victim time and time again to an over zealous smoke machine operator) and Jonathan Sullivan on bass, is lapping up the attention. The crowd hang on his every word, look, smile – song upon song is sung back word perfect, especially old favourites like ‘Dark Blue’, ‘Kill The Messenger‘ and the sublime ‘Bruised‘. McMahon exerts himself with a high pitched section of ‘Hammers and Strings‘ in reply to a gig goer at their previous show in Hamburg who pointed out to him that he missed out the falsetto. “So put that on YouTube for her!” he laughs, giving the cameras the finger.

‘Caves‘ brings us back down to reality with the lines “Beat my body like a rag doll, you stuck the needle in my hip. Said ‘We’re not going to lie…Son you might just die, Get you on that morphine drip” padded by upbeat guitars and piano. It feels like McMahon is sharing his most painful memories and it must be tough reliving it night after night. But for the most part the dark and painful subjects are encompassed in stunning melodies, and often the upbeat tunes take the edge off the wonderfully jagged lyrics. ‘Made For Each Other‘ winds its magic around the crowd, and as McMahon returns for the encore there’s a grin plastered on his face, joking that even if everyone had left before the encore they’d have played to an empty room anyway.

The Something Corporate fans get a treat with a stunning rendition of ‘Cavanaugh Park‘. We can but dream that McMahon will some day give SoCo another go. They end the set with the electric ‘La La Lie” – an anthem for friends that has people linking arms and bouncing along with Andrew, who having promised to return in the end of summer throws himself into the crowds for the dying chords.

Tonight is a magical return for Andrew McMahon. He can return to sunny California safe in the knowledge that his UK fans haven’t forgotten him…and if Manchester and London’s sold out shows are anything to go by, they’ll need to book a few more dates on the next show…

Dee Massey