Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, New Politics and LOLO
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Upstate Concert Hall; Clifton Park, NY
Review and photos by Eric Riley
I’ll be the first to admit that, going into Saturday night’s show, I was already bringing a pretty big bias along. An opener with a serious buzz surrounding her, a co-headliner that has become an international sensation, and a top-billed artist who has consistently been one of my favorites since before high school. So, yeah, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me there.
Working a 7am-3pm shift isn’t normally a huge deal, but when there’s a show at 6:00, it becomes a little tiring. So, the idea of stopping for coffee beforehand seemed like a good one. However, the power-nap that I took in the small gap of time between the two ran
a bit longer than expected and I had to skip the Starbucks run. Rushing inside just as opener LOLO took the stage, I was able to get into the photo pit after only missing her entrance and a few seconds of her first song. During her set, I kept thinking of how disappointed I would have been had a Tall White Chocolate Mocha made me late enough to keep me from watching her perform. (Also, I specified what I typically order just in case anybody decides they feel like treating me, just saying).
Donned in a floor-length fur coat flashy enough to make Macklemore melt, her pull-no-punches soulful pop quickly got the crowd stirring. With only vocals and guitar played live, the rest done through sampling and recordings, LOLO, born Lauren Pritchard, was able to set herself as the center of attention without putting the weight of the show strictly on her shoulders. And on a semi-related note, as I write this, Wikipedia just informed that LOLO is the same Lauren Pritchard that performed in Spring Awakening. So not only is she currently killing it under her stage name, she’s a serious double-threat from an original cast that has a shelf full of TONYs to back her up. Sorry, that’s off topic, but it’s still pretty cool.
Following next came New Politics, playing a larger role than I had last seen them in when they opened for Fall Out Boy and Paramore on the Monumentour last summer. When they opened that show, their crazed energy and onstage poise both impressed me, even more so given that they were opening for arguably (though I don’t think you’d have to argue very hard) two of the biggest bands in the world. This time around, in a co-headliner spot, they somehow managed to up the ante even further. Still carrying the same huge liveliness, the trio took full advantage of their extended set and deeper catalog.
Tracks like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Berlin” had the crowd roaring, and Andrew McMahon joining the stage briefly elevated this even further. Closing with “Harlem” sent them off stage on a high note, wrapping their set up perfectly while simultaneously setting the bar for the next performance.
As I mentioned previously, I have a bias when it comes to Andrew McMahon. To put it simply, there are few people whom I genuinely admire as much as I do him, and that is only partially due to the fact that he is responsible for penning a handful of the most flawless albums I’ve heard throughout my life (I’m not saying that as a hyperbole; every note and key and word on Everything In Transit is literally perfect and we may need to fight if you say otherwise).
Starting things off with a quiet, softly-lit “Rainy Girl,” McMahon eased the audience into the show, warming everyone up before leading into “Dark Blue” and taking his foot off the brake. Throwing in songs throughout each stage of his career, McMahon appealed to fans from all eras, making sure not to stay with one project for too many songs in a row as well as including a few varied renditions of older songs, like an acoustic take on “Punk Rock Princess” or a smoother, slower, almost lounge singer-esque version of “The Mixed Tape” to begin his three-song encore.
There were a few points where I was pleasantly surprised with the song selection. I wasn’t expecting to hear “I Woke Up In A Car,” nor did I expect “Dark Blue” to be the second song of the evening. “Swim” has always been one of McMahon’s heaviest, strongest pieces and his short introduction before it, speaking first about the recent attacks in Paris and his fight against leukemia, then about his recovery and about the need for safe places and positive thinking, added even more heart to an already crushing song.
I don’t want it to sound like the evening was a total downer. Quite the contrary, actually. Even during the few ballads, the energy in the room never wavered, always holding strong thanks to the echo of the crowd singing every word back to the stage. Later, to close out the initial set, there was a roar throughout the room when McMahon pulled his harmonica from his pocket for “La La Lie.” What is normally a ≈ 3:00 song, give or take a few seconds, turned into an extended performance, with McMahon asking the bar at the center of the venue if they were still serving before swimming on a sea of upstretched arms to grab a shot of Jäger. Upon his return, the three members of New Politics were there waiting for him to help bring the song to a close. And, in McMahon’s words (to the best of my recollection), “he [David Boyd] may have some better moves and six-pack abs, but I’ve never seen him do that!” On that note, I had never seen a show come to an end with a room full of grown adults running around beneath a rainbow-colored gym class parachute, but that’s exactly what happened, so I guess it was a night of firsts for everyone, huh?
Holiday From Real
Driving Through A Dream
I Woke Up In A Car
Maps For The Getaway
Punk Rock Princess
All Our Lives
La La Lie
The Mixed Tape
Cecilia and the Satellite