Andrew McMahon – The Glee Club Birmingham, 20/5/13

Although it’s safe to say that Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin were two of the projects that held my hand and dragged me up through my adolescence, I had never gotten the opportunity to catch either of those bands live. However, this spring, Andrew McMahon decided to tour under his own name, rather than attach it to one of his bands. When I say that this was a solo tour, that’s exactly what it was – just Andrew and his piano, something that he’d never done before.

First up though were Fort Hope (4/5). Having risen from the ashes of My Passion earlier this year, the Glee Club was treated to a stripped down set by Jon Gaskin and Ande D’Mello. In Fort Hope, Gaskin has taken the lead vocal slot rather than just being in the background. The result is astonishing. Gaskin displayed an impressive vocal range (with particular highlights in their cover of the classic Somebody To Love), instilled with a power and confidence that keeps growing and growing, and with D’Mello, transformed Fort Hope’s alt-rock anthems into a beautifully delicate acoustic offering smattered with piano. It was a great set, and I eagerly await seeing the full works.

Arguably, the Glee Club wasn’t necessarily the appropriate venue for Andrew McMahon (5/5). With his easy, conversational style and fairly static positioning on a small stage, we would have been better off in a jazz club, with cosy seats and candles on the table, whiskies (or coffee, for the straight edge contingency) in hand. I can imagine that in the Union Chapel in London, where McMahon played later in the week, the atmosphere would have been incredible. Even so, stood in a crowded room and barely able to see a stage, I closed my eyes and let the music just take hold of me, and it was perfect. Despite his trepidation at playing completely solo, McMahon performed admirably. He’s a talented pianist and a talented singer, quite obviously, but the way in which he transformed such well known songs like Punk Rock Princess which are accented with piano rather than driven by them, was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Mindful of his rich back catalogue, McMahon only played a couple of songs from his new EP, The Pop Underground, and concentrated on playing a ‘best of’ list to a room full of devoted fans. Old favourites like I Woke Up In A Car and Dark Blue popped up as well as more obscure gems like Me And The Moon and the beautiful Konstantin, almost reducing me to tears. I couldn’t have dreamed a better set list. McMahon himself is totally charming and has a rapport with the crowd that many performers can only dream of, cracking jokes and telling stories about the songs that he was playing as if we were more than just an audience – more like we were friends. If you want to feel inspired, like you’re part of something bigger, or if you just want to hear some beautiful music, you might want to check out Andrew McMahon next time he comes to town.