Live review: Jack’s Mannequin @ Academy 3, Manchester

So here we are, two Glaswegians in Manchester to see JACK’S MANNEQUIN, one of the greatest bands of our generation. To kill two birds with one stone, we’re also going to do our bit to improve cross-border relations after Rangers fans rampaged through the city and beat up policemen last year.

As we sit down for a pre-gig meal in a downtown pub we overhear the familiar sound of a Scottish eejit abroad. “I’ll rip your head off your body and tear it in two. Just give us another drink.” It looks like The Pop Cop’s hopes of repairing some of the damage (metaphorically at least) is going to be much harder than first thought.

We hop on the No. 42 bus to Manchester University, where our Californian piano-rock chums are due to play the final date of their current tour. Jack’s Mannequin’s first-ever visit to the UK doesn’t include a Scottish date, hence the 450-mile round trip, but at least we were fortunate enough to avoid having to fork out £130 for golddust tickets on eBay.
The rammed Academy 3 has already turned into a sweat box by the time these four Americans bound on to the stage. There’s no mistaking the adoration of the crowd who have waited years to see them as the opening bars of Crashing brings shrieks of delight.

For a band that is used to playing to audiences in the thousands, Jack’s Mannequin could easily have sold out the 400-capacity venue several times over, but they have to be commended for wanting to keep this rare appearance on these shores such an experience intimate.

With no front-of-stage security staff or even a barrier, frontman Andrew McMahon relishes the opportunity to banter with his devotees, teasing a couple for snogging through Bruised and expressing mock outrage at a fan’s homemade message which reads: “I waited five years to see this man and all I got was this crappy poster”.

Despite being chained to a piano stool, Andrew doesn’t let that stifle his enthusiasm, thumping the keys with gusto and grinning madly to his bandmates. Andrew declares Swim one of his personal favourites from The Glass Passenger and it provides an emotional, slightly calmer moment in a night of unbrildled energy. But it’s the material from Jack’s Mannequin’s remarkable debut album Everything In Transit that provokes the biggest singalongs and Andrew can’t resist jumping onto his piano during a barnstorming performance of Dark Blue, one of countless highlights.
As the 90-minute set comes to a close, Andrew thanks the crowd for making the last night of the tour so special and his announcement that they hope to be back soon is done with crossed fingers held aloft.

After dragging ourselves away from the merch stall (£40 for a hoodie… maybe not), we leave the venue, outside which dozens of fans are already milling around in the hope of meeting their heroes. Guitarist Bobby Anderson is the first to emerge and he patiently poses for photos and signs autographs before heading off.
About 10 minutes later The Pop Cop does likewise, stopping off at a local pub called Big Hands where we bump into none other than Bobby, who is sipping a thoroughly deserved pint at the bar. He graciously accepts our offer to buy him a drink (a shot of Jagermeister) and invites us to pull up a pew.

When we tell him we’re from Scotland, his eyes light up. It turns out that Bobby’s dad loves all thing Scottish even though he’s not sure if Anderson is actually a Swedish name. He talks about his love of classical music and how he took a trip to Leipzig during a gap in the band’s German tour because Bach spent most of his life there.

Bobby’s mobile beeps at 11.15pm with a text message which he shows us: “Ready to roll. Come now.” Alas, it’s time for our drinking buddy to go.

The Pop Cop stays for another five minutes to finish our beverages before heading to the bus stop outside the venue where we spot Andrew going the other way. It turns out he and his wife, Kelly, are leaving England to visit Paris then Florence for a short break.

He not only agrees to pose for a picture, he takes our camera and says, “I’m actually quite good at this” before executing an inch-perfect self-portrait. And with that this memorable night in Manchester comes to an end.

4 Jack’s Mannequin – Bruised (remix)
4 Jack’s Mannequin – Kids (live MGMT cover)

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