LIVE REVIEW: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness bring the Upside Down Flowers tour to Boston!
Last night I set out to House of Blues for the Boston date of The Upside Down Flowers tour. Which is a true mammoth of a tour lasting a full two months kicking off January 25th and not ending till March 24th. As the album tour for the mainstay artist that is Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, it also featured two openers that are creating a big name for themselves in their own right with Oregon’s dance rock driven Flor and feel good rockers from LA, Grizfolk.
The tour is definitely a bit of a mixed band bill but it made it that much more interesting. Andrew McMahon fans have always had the reputation of really keeping open ears for openers and being a great room of music listeners even if they don’t know them. I’ve had too many shows where the opener has won me over within three songs and I hadn’t heard a lick of music from them before that show. The crowd ranged from moms and their daughters with flannels around their waists to incredibly polished women with designer bags on their wrists reliving their scene years to those who have never really grown out of it. And they were my personal favorite because there’s no shame in unapologetically being stoked to see one of your favorites. A moment on this note that I loved is when at the beginning of ‘back again’ by main support, Flor, a girl about three rows back let out a huge whoop and didn’t put her arm down once during the track despite the crowd around her just bobbing their heads. Overall, the fans were out strong and they are my favorite kind of concert goer.
The show kicked off with Grizfolk who made great use of the small amount of stage that was really available to them considering the yet to be revealed incredibly intricate stage set up for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness’s set. The band recently debuted a bit of a departure with the two tracks released in 2019 so far with ‘Heavy Crown’ and ‘Spoonful’, and that change was evident in their set. It was something I haven’t seen yet live from the band and was definitely a little more chilled out then normal for them but definitely not a bad thing. From talking to the band earlier, they talked about how in these sets they’re still playing some of the old synthy based tunes that fans would be used to but reimagined in the direction the band is currently going. The set featured the aforementioned ‘Spoonful’ as well as another new one ‘Hurricane’ yet also played homage to their past with tracks like ‘Bob Marley’ and a personal favorite in ‘Troublemaker’. The crowd really started warming up when the band got to ‘Waiting For You’ and the energy and love for the band continued on from there. It’s clear the new direction is going to bring them to great places.
Next up was Oregon’s Flor, who have been gunning for a long time now and really building their way up the same way Grizfolk has. Flor has been a band now for what seems like a crazy five years but only put out their debut full length record in 2017. Despite the band being together for five years, it was my first experience seeing Flor and the expectations were blown. When listening to the band purely via their audio, the show the guys performed last night was not at all what I expected. In a great way obviously. From the first few notes of the set which the band kicked off with ‘Get Behind This’, the set was a whole other type of energy. While the band’s set up was minimal and there were those synth driven moments, Flor is a full on rock act. The musicianship that went down in those jam filled moments show why Flor is rapidly picking up in success. They play like a punk rock band drizzled in dance pop swirls and it fully won me over.
During the performance as well, vocalists’ Zac Grace’s crowd interaction was on point and the room seemed completely charmed by it. They put on a seemingly effortless performance, dancing their way through the around forty five minute set and the chemistry was clear. The band ended the set on the sweet note of their smash hit ‘Hold On’ and Grace humbly remarking as the crowd cheered loudly, “I hope you enjoyed what we had to offer.”
In the thirty minutes or so before headliner Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness took the stage, the crowd started murmuring with excitement and truly filled out. Right on the dot at 9:00 , two of the guys came out from the band with one stating “It’s a beautiful night for a pool party” with the other going out to the front of the crowd with a pool skimmer to go for a little fishing trip. As the skit was ending, a narration came on welcoming the crowd to the Upside Down Flowers tour and the stage set up started to be uncovered. Highlights being a large pool umbrella, risers, upside down flowers of course and a gated area that had a mysterious light shining from it showing the shadow of McMahon at his piano. Just thirty seconds or so into the opening track ‘Everything Must Go’, McMahon and his grand piano, topped with flowers and covered in stickers mind you, pushed open the gates and clearly the crowd exploded.
The band’s aesthetic last night was on fire. Be it McMahon clad in a white dress shirt and slacks to his Jack’s Mannequin band mate as well, Bobby Anderson in a full on black and white flowered suit to keyboardist Zac Clark in an Americana screaming wardrobe, everything looked perfect. The set, the way the band interacted with the crowd, the aesthetic was just perfect. The crowd responded in earnest and didn’t stop moving throughout the set.
Which was incredibly balanced by the way. While there was obviously a focus on the music the band has produced in this incarnation, the band played homage to McMahon’s past with crowd favorites from both the Jack’s Mannequin era and Something Corporate days. These included everything from ‘Punk Rock Princess’ to ‘The Mixed Tape’ to ‘The Resolution’. In these moments, while the band was incredibly polished on stage you saw that the punk rock roots were still there including McMahon jumping up and down while at his piano and of course jumping off of it at points too. His palpable energy even clearly rubs off on keyboardist Zac Clark who could be seen bouncing around on his riser. Further respect to his past included the band’s intro to the track “Teenage Rockstars” which included footage of McMahon’s Dear Jack documentary that he produced while he was fighting leukemia and was writing the first Jack’s Mannequin songs as his therapy. But the video footage also included the signing of Something Corporate to a record label and footage from those days.
You could see in the way the band interacted with each other on stage that there is so much love and respect for each other. From the band singing all the lyrics to each other even if they weren’t the one with a microphone in front of them. I especially loved seeing McMahon constantly smiling back at former Jack’s Mannequin bandmate Bobby Kennedy as he played and the adoration they clearly have for each other as they couldn’t stop grinning at each other through out the performance.
The adoration came from the crowd too as out of all of the bands’ interaction was the most on point but to be fair, as an opener, it’s not something you can conduct as much when you are in an opening position. From McMahon proclaiming he wanted to go for a swim and unrolling a blue sheet over the crowd and having everyone put their flashlights on as McMahon dived under and kept singing from under the tent formed for “Island Radio”. To then end the main set riding out over the crowd on a sun shaped float where the crowd carried him from the stage to the bar for ‘a tequila shot to cap off my night’ when playing the final song of the main set with “Fire Escape”.
I could go on for so much longer but you need to see this tour for yourself. Be it the beautiful cover of “Believe” by Cher to an only second attempt at a group acoustic version of “The Resolution” which kicked off the encore. And of course topped off with “Cecelia and the Satellite”, the debut track for the project about his daughter but not before they jumped into the fan favorite of Jack’s Mannequin fans with “ Made for Each Other/You Can Breathe”. With a solid two hours on stage, there is just too much to mention.
See this tour for yourself. It still goes on for another month and it’s definitely a no miss for any music lover. Get there early for Flor and Grizfolk who bring a beaut of a set to the table. You’re in for a serious treat with this one!