Concert Review: Jack’s Mannequin @ Sound Academy, Toronto 1/31/12

You have to know how much I love Jack’s Mannequin and Andrew McMahon for me to attend this show.  Sound Academy is one of the worst venues in the city on a multitude of levels:  security staff are ignorant; the layout is full of poor sightlines; the sound’s not the best; and the location is ridiculously inaccessible in a city that, overall, is quite the opposite.  But Jack’s Mannequin continues to book there on tours, and I sigh and buy my ticket anyway, because this is a band not to be missed.

The dual opener on the People and Things tour is brutal for a venue with cement floors, so I gave the first a pass and arrived just in time to catch NYC’s Jukebox The Ghost do their set.  Reminded of a strange brew of Paper Route and fun., I was impressed overall; their sound was very well suited to Jack’s defined niche, and fans embraced them as they plowed through a 40-minute set, including a hilarious cover of I Love You Always Forever (apparently, my ass is so old that only I knew the Donna Lewis hit, at least in the drinking section).  They’re worth checking out, so please do so at their official site with a clicky-click here.

By the time Andrew McMahon and company hit the stage, the audience was impatient and many of them intoxicated; such is the danger of a three-hour gap between doors and the headliner set.  Luckily, Jack’s Mannequin delivers songs that mesh well with a happy, drunk crowd, and they did not fail to deliver, slamming their way through 100 minutes of hits and new songs perfectly arranged to keep momentum.  It didn’t matter if you cared for or had even heard the new album; songs were dropped neatly between fan favourites and hits, which kept the “I’m too cool for anything after Everything In Transit” fans in check.  These fans do exist, but are the definite minority, which is a good thing, since I feel Andrew has finally created a sound completely distinct from Something Corporate.

In terms of performance, the band was spot-on, rocking through old staples like The Mixed Tape and Dark Blue and nailing newer faves like Amy, I and My Racing Thoughts.  Andrew’s vocals were, as always, amazing, his belting on Annie Use Your Telescope and The Resolution particularly memorable.  Moments of banter about the local chain California Sandwiches and the paradox of their Italian sandwich slogan and not being located in California kept the proceedings light and fun; the backstory of b-side Last Straw and slagging of George W. Bush earned a roar of laughter. For me personally, the set was as close to perfect as I could have imagined for this tour (my only improvement would have been to swap Annie for Caves, a song I adore and long to hear live).

What makes a Jack’s Mannequin show so striking, however, is Andrew’s genuine joy on stage, and his graciousness towards the fans that support him.  His brush with death and recovery from cancer have given him, like Melissa Etheridge, a buoyancy on stage – a sense of being truly grateful to still be alive, to still perform.  This feeling slips in and out of his lyrics, but to see it in the way someone laughs, smiles and performs is a whole other experience.  For someone who has had her own brushes with the end, it’s uplifting and energizing to behold – a catharsis and reclaiming of hope.  When a song with the chorus, “Hey, hey, hey – we’re all gonna die” becomes a positive anthem, you understand that something magical is in the air.

It makes the security shoving you and maligning mental illness well worth the trek to Polson.

Highlights: The whole set was brilliant, but I was particularly happy to hear Bloodshot, Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die), Swim, The Resolution, Hammers & Strings (A Lullaby), Amy, I, My Racing Thoughts,  The Mixed Tape….  okay, screw it: everything but Annie Use Your Telescope (not a fave, heard it before).

SETLIST: JACK’S MANNEQUIN @ SOUND ACADEMY, 1/31/12

Release Me
The Mixed Tape
Annie Use Your Telescope
Spinning
Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)
Holiday From Real
Amy, I
Kill The Messenger
The Resolution
Casting Lines
Bloodshot
Television
Last Straw (Written “with a boatload of gin” and AM’s hatred of the “douchebag motherfucker asshole” GWB)
Swim (Music Box version)
Bruised
My Racing Thoughts
Dark Blue

Restless Dream
Hammers And Strings (A Lullaby)
La La Lie

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