Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness arrives at the Sherman Theater Stroudsburg, PA 1-23-15 w/ X Ambassadors & Schematic

American singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon has lived quite an interesting life to this point in time. Discovering his love for writing music from a young age, his first band eventually became known to the mainstream world as Something Corporate. After touring consistently and releasing three successful records with the band, McMahon decided in 2004 to partake in a new solo project called Jacks Mannequin. Hard at work on the material for the 2005 debut Everything in Transit, McMahon was diagnosed with Leukemia. Resilient to triumph the disease, with the help of a stem cell transplant from his sister, McMahon thankfully recovered to continue his musical journey.  Releasing two more albums under the name Jack’s Mannequin, he decided to open a new chapter in his life in 2014 with the announcement of the new venture called Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.  Releasing a ten track self-titled debut in October of last year, McMahon’s new music has received tremendous praise from critics and fans alike.  Giving audiences a great dose of what Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is all about, the opening slot for Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson last summer simply set the platform for something new, as well as exciting.  Now in early 2015, McMahon offered North American audiences a handful of special headlining shows and came to Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA on Friday January 23rd with direct support from X Ambassadors and Schematic.

Based in Nashville, TN, Schematic fit right in on the bill bringing to the stage a relatively new project to fans.  Developed by former Mae vocalist Dave Elkins, Schematic saw the light of day after Mae’s final tour in 2011.  Learning the ins and outs of the music industry, they have made headlines by creating not only music, but a lifestyle encompassed by the name. Elkins has, in fact, developed his own label called Schematic Records, built a recording studio, become an artist management, and a developed a positive, small nit community. On stage, in the form of the music act, Elkins and his bandmates Patrick Ryan, Drew Smyser, and Asa Lane brought an upbeat sounds with a technical side, all while incorporating the crowd every chance they had. Schematic put on a great, fun, lively performance and in a generation of heavy artists they are a real breath of fresh air from the norm. After concluding this short run with Andrew McMahon and the X Ambassadors, they will be returning home to Nashville to play with Copeland February 4th, so those who are local, definitely make it a point to go out and see this fantastic band.

The next band up was New York based Alternative Rock act X Ambassadors. Formed back in 2009, this band is known for their flair of jazzy Rock. The story goes, Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds heard an acoustic version of one of their tracks on a local radio station and asked Interscope to sign the band right away. A testament to their unique quality, X Ambassadors live up to exceptions and have released two successful EPs including 2014’s The Reason as they look toward the future. Right from the get go, at Sherman Theater, they brought high energy.  Lead by vocalist and saxophonist Sam Harris, he came front and center on stage, belting out soulful deep lyrics with a voice that grabs everyone’s attention in the best ways possible. Supporting him in this whirlwind of musical talent is his brother and keyboardist Casey Harris, Noah Feldshuh on guitar, and Adam Levin on drums. With the mood set, the lyrics and music of the band featured tones and inflections that made everyone feel each note deep in their soul. They touched on fan-favorites during there quick but entrancing set, including “Free & Lonely,” “Shining,” and worldwide successful song “Jungle.” As their performance came to a close, it became evident fans traveled from all over to see X Ambassadors as many were shouting back the lyrics to each song and showering the band with thunderous applause. X Ambassadors will provide support for Electro Pop act Lights in March and are worth checking out on numerous occasions.

After two vastly different, although extremely entertaining opening acts, the time had arrived for Andrew McMahon to take the stage.  Supported by his band that includes Zac Clark (keyboards), Jay McMillan (drums), and Mikey “The Kid” Wagner (bass), a sense of excitement was in the air as fans of all ages waited for the set to begin.

When the lights raised and shined down onto the stage, centered was a grand piano, arriving from stage left Andrew McMahon came on with all smiles and took his place at his musical thrown. Starting the set off with “All Our Lives” from the self-titled debut, fans already started singing along. The lights flashed in cheery greens and blues while everyone had an sense of tranquility that could be seen by the expressions on their faces as they basked in the smooth vocal styling of McMahon. Moving right along, and not forgetting where he came from, McMahon covered songs from previous projects including “Dark Blue” from Jacks Mannequin and “Me and the Moon” from Something Corporate directly thereafter.  Keeping the performance balanced, McMahon played on with more solo tunes like “High Dive” and “Halls,” before other Jack’s Mannequin fan-favorites “Holiday from Real” along with “The Resolution.” Engaging and friendly with the room, the evening felt more like a private viewing for each person in attendance. That feeling never felt more real than when McMahon walked into the audience during the song “Canyon Moon.” Bringing smiles to everyone’s faces, he sang passionately and sincerely while creating a lasting memory.

As the set moved on, another surprise came with a rendition of Something Corporate’s “Watch the Sky” before the spotlight shined directly on McMahon as he participated in a sing along of “Rainy Girl” with the audience.  Awing the room and igniting a wave of cheers, directly following was “Map For The Getaway” and 2002 Something Corporate song “I Woke Up in a Car.” It was like a trip down memory lane for many who grew up in their teen years finding comfort in these songs.  Still sounding as relevant as ever, McMahon brought each of them to life with perhaps a whole new perspective considering the challenges he has faced.  Returning to the floor of the theater once more, McMahon wound down the set with his debut solo single “Synesthesia.” Seeming as if the evening had ended, a quick return came when McMahon and the band returned for an encore that included Jack’s Mannequin’s “La La Lie” as well as a energized delivery of beautiful single “Cecilia and the Satellite.”

McMahon is definitely one of this generations truly great artistic minds and there is no doubt that anything he touches turns to musical gold, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is no expectation.  This solo project is a new world to McMahon in a sense, as he is collaborating with writers both lyrically and musically to perfect the sound and a message of it all.  The performance at Sherman Theater was sincere to the heart of McMahon and inspiring to the audience. Although this tour was a short run of only a few days, McMahon will be heading to the UK in February for some solo shows before returning home with bigger touring plans on the horizon.

Andrew McMahon is the head of the Dear Jack Foundation, an organization dedicated to causes impacting young adults with cancer. Check out their site for more details.

Photo credit & reporting: Jesse Murch

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