Through a Sea of Hands: Andrew McMahon at the Crystal Ballroom

Vortex Music Magazine

Nearing the end of his Zombies in America Tour, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness brought his wild ride of a show to the Crystal Ballroom with special guests Atlas Genius and Night Riots.

Photos by Sydnie Kobza—click to see more!Photos by Sydnie Kobza—click to see more!Andrew McMahon knows how to put on a show. It’s no surprise, given his extensive experience on the road, leading bands like Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. He’s amassed quite a bit of knowledge on how to command a crowd. It’s a skill Portland has witnessed before, never disappointed by the result.

During 94/7’s 2015 installment of December to Remember, McMahon showcased his colorful live performance with a passionate set of songs from his then year-old self-titled album, complete with balloons loaded with confetti. McMahon returned to Portland the following summer, opening up the Panic! at the Disco and Weezer double-header at McMenamin’s Edgefield in 2016, this time bringing along a parachute for the audience to relive their elementary school days.

Night Riots: Photo by Sydnie KobzaNight Riots: Photo by Sydnie KobzaThroughout both these performances, McMahon maintained an intimate relationship with the crowd, striding in and out of the audience, iinteracting as much as he could with his fans. Based on all of this prior experience, it was no question that the return of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness would be a memorable night for all in attendance.

Now touring behind a new set of songs from his sophomore record, Zombies on Broadway, McMahon brought along two special guests to open up the show. California alt-rock band Night Riots took the first slot, energizing the crowd with power pop. Though it was still early in the night and the sun was still high, leading man Travis Hawley and crew got the audience jumping, singing and shouting along, commanding the stage with swagger and keeping the set interesting with a lit up drum solo interlude.

Atlas Genius made their return to the Crystal Ballroom stage as the night’s second opener, having previously headlined the venue back in November of 2013. Though the Australian rockers were only set to open the show, they went above and beyond with a measurable 45-minute set of songs off both of their records, as well as a crowd favorite cover of Dead or Alive’s "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)."

Atlas Genius: Photo by Sydnie KobzaAtlas Genius: Photo by Sydnie KobzaWith the sun down and the full crowd packed in, McMahon took the stage. With the first song, “Fire Escape,” McMahon burst with energy, showing off his skills on the piano before jumping on top of it to serenade the ballroom.

The nearly sold-out crowd was immediately captivated by McMahon’s stage presence. Multiple times throughout the night, the singer ventured off the stage and into the sea of people making the audience just as much a part of the set as himself. McMahon walked through the crowd, jumped in the crowd and swam through the sea of hands, all while delivering top-notch vocals on songs from both of his latest releases, as well as fan favorites from Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate.

Andrew McMahon: Photo by Sydnie KobzaAndrew McMahon: Photo by Sydnie KobzaThough this tight-knit performance was already impressive, McMahon had a few more tricks up his sleeve. Having already taken a swim through the crowd, McMahon then took it one step further as a giant inflatable duck made an appearance. Taking his place in the boat, McMahon sailed across the ballroom, greeting happy fans as he glided through.

The waves of the crowd pushed him throughout the room, sailing underneath the Crystal’s chandelier and back to shore on stage. McMahon closed out his set with the return of a colorful parachute and his song “Synesthesia.”

McMahon once again proved his ability to captivate and entertain. With his use of unconventional props and an intimate connection with every corner of the room, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness brought a sea of color and kinship to the Crystal Ballroom through passion on stage. The next time he sails into the Pacific Northwest won’t be something to miss.

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