Batman. Who knew JACK'S MANNEQUIN had such a dedicated following? If the crowd
at Friday night's GUSTER show, for which the SoCal band was the second opener, was any testament, it's
safe to say that Something Corporate's Andrew McMahon's side-project has
evolved into an entity all its own. More introspective and lyrically expressive
than Something Corporate, Jack's Mannequin has been cruising along quietly just
under the emo/indie radar. Three full albums and a successful battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia later, McMahon looked damn happy to be right where he was Friday--commanding an almost packed house of fans that sang along to every word to every song he played.
Reedy and unthreateningly handsome, baby-faced McMahon looks more like a cast member on Glee than anyone's idea of a rock star, but to see him rock his piano (fun fact: I overheard a photog mention that they have to trash his piano after every tour-- sometimes mid-tour-- because he keeps Solo cups full of Jaeger onstage that slosh over the keys and into the wood as he pounds away at the ivories night after night) you have to admit the dude has a bit of gravitas all his own.
Syracuse's much buzzed about indie kids RA RA RIOT opened to a patchy audience of bored-looking dads and their teen daughters (clearly there for Jack) and scruffy 30-somethings (there for Guster.) The band of floppy-haired moppets seemed ill at ease on the big stage. They somehow looked younger than ever up there, without even the shade of night to add a little gravity to their set. I saw them headline the Paradise two years ago, where I was impressed by their charismatic stage presence, despite being a fairly green touring outfit. To their credit, though, the band's music shone steady and bright. I have little doubt that the next time these kids play a Pavilion show they'll come packing a little more panache.
For Boston-bred GUSTER, on the other hand, this kind of tour is old hat. I was surprised to see how old the trio--whose sophomore album Goldfly can project me right back to the passenger seat of a hippie pal's mustard colored Honda Civic circa my own sophomore year of high school-- looked when projected on the Pavilion's big concert screens. On second thought, maybe I was surprised to see how old I felt seeing how old they looked.
Both I and the contingent of old-school fans in my section (who, know doubt, came to Friday's show to re-live their own high school Honda Civis joy rides) were dismayed when, after opening their set with old chesnut "Barrel of a Gun," Guster proceed to play track after track off of their most recent (and blandly pop) albums. Let's be straight, I hadn't heard one song from 2010's Easy Wonderful before Friday's show. People go to see Guster for the same reason they go to see, say, the Dropkick Murphys. To revel in nostlagia and sing along off-key to old favorites. Thankfully, they quit jerking us around mid-set and devoted the second half of the show almost entirely to their 90s-recorded albums.
I'd say I was annoyed that Guster closed out the show with a cover of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is," but that would be inaccurate. It's sort of tough to be annoyed when Will Forte wanders onstage and take the mic for an impromptu encore with the band. Yup, Will Forte of SNL who, apparently, is a bit of a super-fan himself. Watch as he rips off a Guster t-shirt to reveal--what's that?--another Guster t-shirt beneath.Which he then tears off to reveal the word Guster painted across his body. To say the audience went ape-shit would be an understatement. Note to musicians everywhere: bring Will Forte on tour with you and your fans will always leave satisfied.