We’ll get to night two of the Jack’s Mannequin stay at House of Blues Chicago, but before we do there’s something you need to know. I’ve had a huge man crush on Andrew McMahon since before I graduated high school. Something Corporate (and In Flames, oddly enough) defined what I would describe as a good portion of my “formative years.” When his fingers nimbly bounce between pieces of ivory while he whisper sweet nothings into my ears through speakers at a million decibels it’s like he’s reaching inside of my soul and tugging on heart strings I wasn’t convinced actually existed.
For me, his music isn’t just a sound–it’s a time and a place and a smell and a feeling too. And, as sappy as it is, it’s a good thing because that’s what music is supposed to be. Something Corporate faded away. Jack’s Mannequin came about. McMahon got Leukemia. I bought an 11:11AM bracelet. “The Mixed Tape” quickly rises to number 1 on the iPod. (Many of these things overlap and/or happened simultaneously.) He beats Leukemia, starts touring as Jack’s Mannequin and everything’s right with the world…
Except it’s not. There were plenty of redeeming qualities about the performance of night two. McMahon behind (and on) the piano. The disco ball. Jukebox the Ghost opening. McMahon rocking the harmonica and the microphone. (Looking like a menswear blogger for the performance didn’t hurt either.) And yet, even with all of these positive aspects and my obvious love affair with McMahon’s music, something wasn’t quite right.
Lamps all over the stage illuminated a packed house filled with people willing to sing and bounce along with every hallowed word that left McMahon’s lips. Once his thoughts started racing it became slightly less musically disconnected, but there was still something missing. Even after the whole band started getting into it, the songs still sounded off. This wasn’t the same Jack’s Mannequin I listened to on Spotify the entire way to the show, or the one that I got when I anxiously pre-ordered Everything In Transit eons ago. It wasn’t pulling on my heart strings. It wasn’t driving me to sing along even though I knew all the words.
The divide between an artist live and recorded is normally bridged with emotion, but even McMahon’s valiant attempts at a connection were lost on me. For almost a decade I built up this pained, beautiful, emotionally aware persona based on McMahon’s music. When I finally got the chance to see it live I was left wanting. Jack’s Mannequin, as a real human being, can have a bad day. Jack, Andrew, whatever, I’m not saying we have to breakup. I just like the version of your music that exists in my head better than the noise that came out of the speakers at House of Blues.