Andrew McMahon Throws Epic ‘Pool Party’ at the Pageant
Story • Madisyn Siebert
Photos • Cory Weaver
Many shows at the Pageant tend to focus solely on the music. But Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness take a different approach on the “Upside Down Flowers” tour, changing the perception of what a concert at a venue the size of the Pageant can look like.
The stage itself was blooming with huge flowers, faux palm trees, many lights and multiple levels to add different dimensions to the stage. After a voiceover welcomed the audience to the land of upside-down flowers, the band took the stage, one by one, before McMahon himself appeared from under one of the multiple platforms with a full piano.
From the beginning of the first song, “Everything Must Go,” McMahon and his bandmates radiated energy. After a couple songs, he took a break to welcome them to his “pool party,” a scenario he wanted to emulate because “it’s cold outside,” and because he said the swimming pool had become a touchstone in his life. He even convinced fans in the pit to turn on their cell phone flashlights and grab a section of a blue sheet to simulate a pool, then he ducked underneath to sing “Island Radio,” popping out of the “water” from time to time.
He maintained a high energy level throughout the concert, standing on top of his piano and getting down into the pit to be right next to the fans. But he also took the time to explain the meaning behind the songs and what he was going through during that time in his life when he wrote them.
A perfect example of how he could go from connecting to his audience to transitioning immediately back as a performer was when he was speaking about a difficult time in his life before the song “House in the Trees.” In the song “This Wild Ride,” he explained that he wasn’t originally going to put it on the album—the intent was to write it for his grandmother days before she passed away. He ended up including it because he wanted everyone to understand and appreciate that “the end doesn’t have to feel like the end; it can be a celebration.”
McMahon didn’t disappoint those who were fans of his other bands, Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate. He played several songs from his earlier days, such as “Punk Rock Princess,” “Swim,” “I Woke Up in a Car” and the classic “Dark Blue.”
In the middle of the show, he addressed the fear of starting over as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He said he kept ending bands and starting anew and feared that this one last change may be the one that would do him in. He didn’t have that fear after a writing trip to Nashville, where he produced the first song he loved off his album Zombies on Broadway. The song was called “Dead Man’s Dollar.”
McMahon also addressed his wife and family several times throughout the concert. “Sometimes Kelly Ann gets a love song or sometimes she gets an apology song. Tonight it’s an apology,” he said before going into his song “Careless.” It was his first time performing the track on tour. He continued his emotional string with “Teenage Rockstars,” backed by a projection of him in his younger years as the images navigated to where he is today.
He was able to rev up the crowd with the snap of his fingers; case in point, a cover of Cher’s “Believe” turned into a crowd singalong. McMahon also got the crowd pumped with “Paper Rain” by changing the set background, placing sunglasses on the bridge of his nose and putting on a cape, personifying Elvis Presley. He finished up before his encore with the crowd on their feet with “Fire Escape.”
The encore began with more story recounting, then went into “The Astronaut.” McMahon amped up the crowd by making the pit his swimming pool for the second time and placing a giant pool float on the crowd that carried him to the back of the venue, where he did a tequila shot. He was then guided by the crowd, still on the float, back to the stage. The set concluded with the popular “Cecilia and the Satellite.”
He also encouraged people on their way out to get swabbed to be a possible match for his organization Dear Jack, which helps match people who could be donors to adolescents and young adults who suffer from cancer, just like McMahon did at one point in his life.
This concert was constantly engaging, with everyone eager to see what McMahon had planned next—whether it was a talk about life or a crazy stunt. It was an animated show that had McMahon entrancing the crowd from the moment he burst onto the stage. The audience was left in awe of the world of the upside-down flowers and the pool party created inside the Pageant.