Live Review: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness + Hevenshe – The Factory Theatre, Sydney (10.02.23)

Andrew McMahon

Considering I’m still relatively young, 20 years is a long time. It’s been more than 20 years since I first heard a song by Andrew McMahon, but they still hit as well in 2023 as they did then. Touring under his own name and moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, this three date solo tour and show at The Factory Theatre proved to be a trip down memory lane, to a simpler time, where I was a little more angsty and Andrew McMahon sure knew how to write a ripper song.

Opening up the night was Hevenshe. Playing a brand of heartfelt and emotion driven acoustic music, somewhere in the realm of The Waifs, Xavier Rudd, Missy Higgins and Kate Miller Heidke, she was selected by McMahon to open up the night and delivered a flawless 30 minute set. While I wasn’t aware of Hevenshe prior, I’m more than likely to check their music out in the future. Announcing they will soon be opening on Kisschasy’s reunion tour in the coming months, based off this opening set, I’m more than confident Hevenshe will win over plenty more fans on the tour.

I was in year 5 the first time I heard Andrew McMahon’s songs as the singer/songwriter/pianist of Something Corporate. I wouldn’t describe 10 year old me as emo, but in hindsight, my music taste sure was. What set Something Corporate apart from the other bands I was listening to was definitely the piano and vocals of McMahon. Now, some two decades later, I’m here to tell you McMahon’s vocals and skills on the ivory have not faded and are as strong as ever.

Promising a heap of songs from the three iterations of his musical life (Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin and current Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness), the set opened with the bouncing “Holiday from Real” before moving into “Fire Escape”; the first moment of the night were McMahon brought the crowd in for backing vocals duties and put forward his charm and wit. Admittedly not familiar with the song prior to the set, “Fire Escape” really is a ripper fun song. Running the dual mic set up, McMahon seamlessly switched between crushing his vocals and smashing the keys while maintaining it for the duration of the 20 song, two-hour set.

With a career spanning across three notable bands, you’d imagine it would be a struggle to play a set that is evenly weighted that feeds into the strength of an entire discography. Not only did McMahon play an incredibly well-weighted and paced set, but the track list was next to perfect. An early nod to his Jack’s Mannequin days via an impromptu and unscripted “Bruised” was matched by fan favourite “Punk Rock Princess”, all the while giving McMahon a chance to tell stories about playing The Factory before (‘Oh I remember those planes’) and how Australia may or may not have played a pivotal role in Something Corporate breaking up.

Spending the middle of the set alternating between Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate tracks gave the oldest of fans some real satisfaction as the room of reformed emos had the chance to again get lost in their emotions to “The Resolution” (pre-empted by a story about the Twilight book series), “Cavanaugh Park”, an abbreviated “If You C Jordan” (with an added flashback to meeting the titular Jordan as an adult and all the awkwardness that followed) and the ‘shroom induced “Watch the Sky”.

As the night entered it’s final third, the stories and crowd interaction picked up a notch, as McMahon started telling stories of his life as a husband, father and bonafide hitmaker (“Cecilia and the Satellite”), all the while somehow welcoming a fan on stage to share a definitely non-sponsored drink. “The Mixtape” got a run, a personal favourite “I Woke Up in a Car” was a set highlight, before the main set closed out with the most well received song of the night, a soaring rendition of “Dark Blue”. Returning from the shortest of intermissions, McMahon played the earlier promised “Konstantine” (‘it’s hard to play a nine-minute song solo’) before ending on the jovial “La La Lie”, with added backing vocals from the crowd, imaginary harmonica and real palm trees (you had to be there for that to make sense).

Honestly, for an artist I can safely say I haven’t listened to in 10 years, the set brought back so many feelings, memories and emotions I thought I’d left behind as a teenager. Andrew McMahon has played a pivotal role in so many lives across so many incarnations of his now decades long career. Here’s hoping it continues for that bit longer.