REVIEW: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness at Summerfest

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On a near perfect Saturday night, all the way at the north end of the Summerfest grounds, Andrew McMahon took the stage at the Uline Warehouse exactly at 10:00 PM. The Summerfest veteran didn’t waste a second, and quickly took to the grand piano placed center stage for him to roll into “Fire Escape”, a single from his most recent album, “Zombies On Broadway”. A full Uline Warehouse was there to greet him with open arms. This is probably the most stationary that he would stay for the whole night.

If you’ve seen Andrew McMahon before, either alone or with previous bands Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate, you know that McMahon is not the traditional pianist. Before the song was over, McMahon was down the stage, feeding off of the crowd’s energy. The stomping, pulsating, love song anthem was a solid start to the night, and only a precursor for things to come. Later in the night, McMahon would appear out amongst the Uline Warehouse crowd a couple of times, then back on stage with some impressive speed, leaving you to wonder how he got there and back so fast.

The only problem is, if you’ve seen Andrew McMahon before, you’ve likely seen some of this. At one point in the night, McMahon quipped that “Summerfest is in its 50th year, and I’ve probably played ten of them”. There was, however, the challenge of trying to make this show differentiate from previous visits. Other than including songs from “Zombies On Broadway”, there wasn’t much that really stood out for the majority of his set.
Efforts were made, though. The added presence of wacky, waving, arm-flailing, inflatable tube men during “High Dive” and encore closer “Cecelia and the Satellite” made the crescendo of the choruses to the song feel that much bigger, and inflatable tacos, killer whales, and beach balls were tossed out during “Shot Out of a Cannon” added a fun element to things. There was also a guest appearance from everyone’s kindergarten favorite, the giant parachute, which draped the crowd and McMahon for a song. While fun, they didn’t necessarily change that much of the night’s show.

Nevertheless, the show was solid from a musical perspective. A little less than half of the set came from the new album, and even less songs came from the debut album from McMahon under his current moniker. What was a little surprising, though, was that two Something Corporate songs, and four Jack’s Mannequin tracks, made their way into the setlist. McMahon gave an earnest speech about being cancer-free for 12 years now, and the work of his Dear Jack Foundation before going into the beautiful, yet somber “Swim”, and a story about waiting out a hailstorm at Summerfest in previous years before playing “Holiday From Real”. Early Something Corporate jam “Woke Up In A Car”, as  well as a rare performance of b-side “Watch The Sky” also made the cut, though it was clear a good percentage of the crowd only knew McMahon from Jack’s Mannequin. Notably absent was major Jack’s Mannequin hit, “The Mixed Tape”, which vocally frustrated at least one fan. This was, however, an Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness show, and we could see why that one isn’t part of the set every night.

All in all, while there weren’t many huge moments, there wasn’t anything that wouldn’t make you want to see Andrew McMahon again in the future. McMahon himself was energetic, a strong performer, and genuinely appreciative of Milwaukee on Saturday night. If you were a fan of any of his projects, or all of his work, chances are, you left the Uline Warehouse satisfied with Andrew McMahon.

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  • I would cross reference that Summerfest total again. I believe it’s actually 10 if including the Amphitheater opener appearance. I’ve been to 9 at Summerfest.

  • Very possible. We went off of which might not have everything uploaded. Thanks for the correction.

  • It’s not surprising – have you seen any of his other Zombies In America tour dates? It sounds like you have seen him before. Why would he suddenly change how he’s always done his set lists and leave his longtime fans hungry for SoCo and Jack’s songs? Wouldn’t be the best move on his part.

  • Definitely seen him before. It’s not a bad live show, don’t get me wrong. But he did already bring the tour through Milwaukee. I wasn’t expecting a big flip, just not much stood out from the last times I’ve seen him.

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