Proving that pop music isn’t just near-naked, big-breasted blondes singing about bad romances, Jack’s Mannequin stopped in Philadelphia to demonstrate that the genre still has substance. With support from two other like-minded pop acts and a sold-out crowd, the California four-piece was equipped to defend the genre.
Kansas quartet Vedera kicked off the evening with “Loving Ghosts”, the first of six songs from their sophomore and latest full-length, Stages. Effortlessly switching from rhythm guitar to piano throughout the set while also providing powerful lead vocals, frontwoman Kristen May caught the attention of the sold out Philadelphia crowd. May’s husband and co-songwriter, Brian Little, provided excellent leads; drummer Drew Little and bassist Jason Douglas make up the four-piece’s rocksteady rhythm section. The set’s highlight was “Lover’s Lie” from the band’s superior debut, The Weight of an Empty Room:
A World Apart
Goodbye My Love
Providing direct support, fun. began their set at 8:30. Things started off shaky, with the excellent “Walking the Dog” plagued with unnecessary use of strange effects. Thankfully, though, the band returned to form on the next song with pop masterpiece “I Wanna Be the One”. Andrew Dost sounded excellent on the piano; touring member Emily Moore’s female vocals helped complete the band’s soaring harmonies. Touring bassist Michael Newsted backed a riveting performance of “All the Pretty Girls on a Saturday Night”, while “Barlights” showcased frontman Nate Ruess’s intimate storytelling. A heartwarming performance of “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” finished fun.’s wonderful seven-song setlist.
Walking the Dog
I Wanna Be the One
All the Pretty Girls on a Saturday Night
At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)
Take Your Time (Coming Home)
As Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon walked on stage, the crowd erupted in applause and the band jumped into a great performance of “Holiday from Real”. Guitarist Bobby Anderson slammed the first few chords of “The Mixed Tape” to kick off the hit single, with the band then moving onto the first two tracks from their latest album, The Glass Passenger. “Kill the Messenger” was injected with bits of The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”; “The Resolution” was a full-crowd singalong.
Slowing things down, “Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)” found McMahon offering farewell to his very first piano while remembering the amazing memories associated with it. The song’s haunting piano echoed through the Electric Factory, silencing the sold-out crowd while McMahon lamented, “My friend calls me up with her heart heavy still, she says, Andy, the doctors prescribed me the pills but I know I’m not crazy. I just lost my will. So why am I taking them still?”
Things didn’t stay somber for long, though, with pounding performances of “Bloodshot”, “I’m Ready”, and “Bruised” moving the crowd to dance along. A very respectable cover of U2’s “New Year’s Day” was surprisingly well-received by the young crowd. Following a talk about enjoying some of the band’s deep cuts — that is, songs recorded for but not released on a full-length album — Jack’s Mannequin played “Miss California”, a bonus track from The Glass Passenger.
Two of the band’s best cuts, “Dark Blue” and “MFEO”, closed out the setlist. Both songs received extended instrumental parts, with the latter featuring an enormous outro lead by drummer Jay McMillan’s rhythmic percussion and McMahon’s swooning vocals: “I said maybe, maybe we were made for each other…where are you now?”
An encore performance began with current single, “Swim”, and ended with “La La Lie”, featuring McMahon on harmonica. The night wasn’t complete, though, until McMahon leapt off stage, into the crowd, and surfed to the sound booth near the back of the venue. Being carried by just the flow of the crowd, McMahon safely made the trip and also the return voyage back to stage.
Holiday from Real
The Mixed Tape
Kill the Messenger
Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)
New Year’s Day (U2 cover)
La La Lie
Jack’s Mannequin sounded great at the normally-shoddy Electric Factory, putting on an extremely enjoyable show full of singalongs and crowd participation. With such a solid catalog at their disposal, however, it comes as absolutely no surprise. McMahon will be returning to duties in his former band, Something Corporate, over the coming months, but expect a new Jack’s Mannequin album and a tour supporting that album in the near future as the frontman juggles his responsibilities in both pop powerhouses.
All photos by Lindsay Voldandt.