Show Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Michigander at The Riviera in Chicago, IL

A band from only a stone’s toss away, Michigander set the tone for the night with their midwestern emo style that filled the entire room with their powerful voice and poetic relatability and almost coziness. A staple of the Midwestern emo sub-genre style and sound, Michigander focuse immensely on nostalgia, growing pains, life’s many obstacles and confusions, and more alongside electronic, guitar-driven instrumentals.

It’s this big-hearted and honest storytelling that make Michigander stand out from the pack, making them a perfect opener for Andrew McMahon, who’s well-known for his own brand of storytelling. Gracing large festivals like Lollapalooza and other big tours, this isn’t Michigander’s first rodeo, nor will it be their last.

Andrew McMahon was one of those names I always heard throughout the mid-ish 2000s, but never had the pleasure of seeing until now, making me wish I had taken the time to catch them earlier. My original exposure to Andrew McMahon was, of course, through Jack’s Mannequin, but even before that, there was Something Corporate, who dominated that sphere of music for several years through their catchy mixture of pop punk and emo that had that perfect, widespread-appealing sound. In the same vein as The Starting Line or Motion City Soundtrack, it was no surprise Something Corporate popped off how they did, only to be followed by the even more popular Jack’s Mannequin, both of which were household names during the “Warped Tour years.”

Andrew McMahon’s career is intertwined with Jack’s Mannequin’s iconic release and his first solo project, Everything in Transit, followed by The Glass Passenger and People and Things. To talk about Andrew McMahon, you must talk about Jack’s Mannequin, specifically Everything in Transit. This style and sound was at its arguable peak during these years, reflecting a generation of fans and listeners who were quickly becoming older, thus starting to deal with the realities of life throughout their youth and into adulthood, which was perfect for an artist like Andrew McMahon, as that is exactly what he himself writes about … the harshness of life, but also the joys, which is where Andrew McMahon still finds himself to this day.

Defying expectations and carving out his path, Andrew McMahon brings those moody, emo alt-rock energy from Something Corporate in hand with the upbeat, pop rock sound of Jack’s Mannequin to his latest and current project all while still placing storytelling and themes of love, loss, life, and survival at the center. A mainstay in the pop punk/emo genre for two-plus decades, Andrew McMahon brings out an incredibly dedicated fan phase that have been following him since day one with Something Corporate or maybe are new fans that have the same level of love for this music as if they were day-oners. I swear half the room where adults and families who brought their kids or maybe nieces and nephews to, probably, their first concert, demonstrating the dedication fans have for him through them wanting to spread their love for McMahon’s music onto the next generation of fans.

It’s pretty rare, especially in this realm of music, to see an artist, still performing and also transcending multiple projects and personal struggles, finding themselves being both relevant and loved by their listeners. After seeing him perform, it makes sense. An incredible live talent who sound just as good if not better than on record, while making the biggest rooms seem small through creating an interpersonal experience and impeccable stage presence makes fans feel like they’re the only one in attendance.

Featuring a bolstering 21-song setlist, there wasn’t a single moment where the energy dipped as he traversed moments between songs with skillful ease, creating a seamless, nonstop experience while mixing in some awesome, memorable moments like walking out into the crowd during the intro song, bringing a fan onstage to karaoke alongside him, and jumping into a pool floaty to float around the room.

Performing hits from Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, and songs under In the Wilderness, every era of fan was made to feel included as he played through his 20 years of his musical career in one setlist, an approach to performance and structuring a setlist comparable to the Eras Tour. Throughout the night, you could feel and see his relatable, honest, and consistent songwriting being put on display, consisting of themes that anyone can relate to at any stage in life, all while putting on a level of performance that only comes with several years of live showmanship. I entered not fully knowing what to expect, but left highly impressed.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness


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