Andrew McMahon – “You’ve gotta swim, swim for your life, swim for the music that saves you when you’re not so sure you’ll survive”: The UC Theatre in Berkeley (May 6, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi


Seeing Andrew McMahon for the first time last Saturday (UC Theatre Berkeley) had me come away with newfound respect for him as an artist, but most importantly, and as a HERO. I was not aware that Andrew had been diagnosed with leukemia 11 years ago and is alive today because of a successful stem cell transplant many are not fortunate enough to receive (“We are the fortunate ones”Lottery Ticket). With a steadfast vision to give back, Andrew started a foundation called Dear Jack that supports young adult/adolescent patients in their battle against cancer. In fact, $0.50 of all ticket sales for his current ‘Zombies on Broadway’ tour go toward saving lives (literally) and helping patients find a stem cell match. Andrew’s new album was as means for him to find closure in the city (New York) where he was first diagnosed with cancer (on tour with Jack’s Mannequin). Cancer-free and ready to face those haunting curiosities, Andrew returned to NYC a decade later to record “Zombies on Broadway“:

“I wrote this album in the middle of a whirlwind, when the future was unclear. Isn’t it always? I found my way to the city, thinking I could settle a score with a ghost. You can’t, so I came home and rewrote the ending. I’m proud announce my new album, “Zombies on Broadway,” is coming on February 10th. I spent more than a year hoping to find new answers to old questions. What I found; I have always been two people; One in search of peace and the other in search of whatever makes my hair stand up and my heart beat faster. This record is mostly about the latter.”

He said that that name is inspired by the constant sea of tourists (“zombies”) that he had to wade through everyday in his recording studio on Broadway. He expressed a fondness for this “city that never sleeps,” but also an undeniable love/hate relationship reflecting the extremes it would take him to. This passion and angst can be felt in the track, ‘Brooklyn you’re killing me,’ which ironically was the only track on the album that was NOT recorded in Brooklyn (but instead at his home in Southern California). He had Keith Jeffrey of Atlas Genius join him on stage to belt out this beast. What a rush to be seeing along with the chorus! Nevertheless, Andrew redeems his love for NYC with his catchiest track on the album, Fire Escape: “There’s a million city lights but you’re number one.”

After being away on the road for 2 months, Andrew addressed his comfort in being “back in California,” the place that will always be “home.” He also mentioned having a special connection to UC Berkeley because Something Corporate (his first band) played for the UCB prom back in the day. In honor of that memory, Andrew treated us to a special Something Corporate throwback, ‘Woke up in car,’ and you better believe the whole crowd jumping up and down.

He also treated us to two Jacks Mannequin throwbacks, ‘Dark Blue‘ and ‘Swim.’ ‘Dark Blue‘ had tons of fan shrieking in hysteria, and I even caught a glimpse of a girl with tears running down her cheeks. For fans that have been with him since the very beginning, these old killers definitely slay. ‘Swim‘ was even more emotional, for Andrew said it was written about his friend who, like him, was “put through the ringer” with a battle against cancer:

“You’ve gotta swim
Swim for your life
Swim for the music
That saves you
When you’re not so sure you’ll survive”

This song proves that willpower to continue doing what you love is enough to fight all odds. For someone whose life could have been taken away from him 11 years ago, Andrew exemplifies what it means to be LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST and embracing every moment on earth DOING WHAT YOU LOVE. Making music is what he STAYED ALIVE FOR, and that could not be more apparent in the way he threw himself into his piano as if it was his lifeline. His endless energy, magnetic delivery, and expressive eyes (one that remind me of Ritzy from the Joy Formidable) is something you have to just see for yourself. Not only did he shoot like a cannon (glad he played Canyon Moon) into the crowd 3 times (once on a GIANT DUCK float and another on a GOLDEN DRAGON float), but he ran around stage several times, jumped off his piano like a kid on a playground. He also stomped on his piano keys, something I have never even seen the great Billy Joel (who Andrew actually played with on April 28th) do. It was obvious that there is NOWHERE ELSE Andrew would rather be, and he voiced this appreciation to his fans all night: “Thank you for choosing to spend your Saturday night with me.”

He followed up this appreciation with a glorious shout-out to music as the common denominator binding strangers together:  “In a world of things that alot of people don’t agree on right now, is that we like to dance… and we like a little bit of music on our Saturday. You are standing probably shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of strangers.. we agree on one thing, we love music… I thought maybe be could have one of these perfect moments tonight under the parachute together.”  A perfect moment indeed, a moment that we have when “We surrender to a night of music together… that’s the show… that’s the magic.” ❤
So much of this night did indeed felt like magic, and unexpected teasers like Andrew’s cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘I’m on Fire‘ (with Matt of Night Riots) had us levitating off the ground. The song that then kept us there was the epic encore of ‘Cecilia And The Satellite‘:
“If I could fly, then I would know
What life looks like from up above and down below
I’d keep you safe, I’d keep you dry
Don’t be afraid, Cecilia, I’m the satellite
And you’re the sky
For all the things my hands have held, the best by far is you.”

Despite having flown all over the globe for 16 years (>200 days a year) on world tours, Andrew’s continues to have his WINGS IN FLIGHT. Who knows where he will land next. 😀


*Check out full videos from the night on my YouTube:

Instagram: beatsthatsetmypulse
Twitter: @beatsthatsetmy



p.s. I was a bit bummed that he didn’t play ‘Maps for the Getaway,’ as this is one of my favorites from the new album and such a PERFECT road trip songs:

“No cash in the bank, no paid holidays
All we have, all we have is
Gas in the tank, maps for the getaway
All we have, all we have is time”  (YAAAAAS)

BUT, hopefully at the Mountain Winery on July 1. Hope to catch him again there!

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