Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Something Corporate concert review

A version of my review originally appeared in the OC Register and can be viewed here: Photo by Kelly Swift.

Something Corporate
Where: Grove of Anaheim
When: Aug. 27

“It’s good to be back home,” said singer Andrew McMahon, while standing atop his grand piano at the Grove of Anaheim. During a simultaneously energetic and introspective 90-minute, 20-song set on Friday night, Something Corporate displayed why it was among the more unique and successful local bands (total cumulative music sales have surpassed 1 million) to emerge from Orange County over the past decade.

The Dana Point-area musicians were just out of high school when they crafted a versatile alt-pop sound on independent debut disc “Ready…Break” in 2000 and major label debut album "Leaving Through the Window" two years later. McMahon’s raucous ivory tickling brought Ben Folds and Jerry Lee Lewis to mind; Josh Partington’s edgy guitar style and the pair’s increasingly mature lyrics equaled widespread appeal.

Following an attention-grabbing, Vans Warped Tour stint, heavy headlining roadwork, another well-received album ("North"), plus modern rock radio airplay on KROQ /106.7 FM and elsewhere, Something Corporate went on hiatus.

McMahon formed Jack’s Mannequin in 2005 and fought off leukemia with a life-saving bone marrow transplant. That group became his main focus and put out two excellent full-length releases.

This past spring, Something Corporate finally played together again at Bamboozle festivals in New Jersey, Chicago and here at Anaheim Stadium, where it wowed the crowd (see review here). The latter marked SoCo’s first complete gig since the time apart.

New career retrospective, “Played in Space” (its title refers to the band’s song “The Astronaut,” used as a wake up call for space shuttle commander Steven Lindsey in July 2006) also came out recently. The accompanying EP contains new mixes (one by Owl City’s Adam Young), a couple rarities and one fresh recording.

Something Corporate graces the September cover of Alternative Press magazine. The in-depth feature reveals that a future album isn’t entirely out of the question, though McMahon definitely plans to make another Jack’s effort first.

Arriving at the end of a month long, nationwide tour, the band came across tighter than ever in Anaheim, where the venue was more than three-quarters full. Taking the stage to the smooth sound of Peaches & Herb’s 1979 chart topper “Reunited,” the guys came out with all guns blazing.

"21 and Invincible” launched the concert on an invigorating note. Drummer Brian Ireland’s clattering, punkish rhythms were impressive. When McMahon sang about marriage, he updated the lyrics to reflect the fact he’s been hitched awhile; the line “today’s gonna blow us away” was probably what many fans anticipated before the show. They weren’t disappointed.

The hard-hitting “Hurricane” was just that – a gale force rocker - until they took the mood down several notches for the pensive ballad “She Paints Me Blue.” Partington did some menacing licks amid the blazing “Space” and fans pumped their fists to the chant worthy chorus. He and second guitarist Bob Anderson engaged in menacing runs on the ominous “Only Ashes,” where Ireland steadily increased the rhythm.

McMahon didn’t stay tethered to his mahogany Baldwin piano. Often, he’d start singing a song while working both sides of the stage, play, then get back up again. A fine example of his mature, vulnerable side came via “Wait,” done acoustically. Partington’s lyric “days are numbered here” took on heightened resonance when sung by McMahon in 2010. The sweeping “Cavanaugh Park” was totally dramatic and moving.

Although the frontman - who turns 28 next Friday - described freewheeling party song “Drunk Girl” as “a little immature,” he still had a good time with it, appending a new mini ragtime intro then stood while pounding the keys. Young concertgoers sang along loudly. “If You C Jordan,” where McMahon played the piano with his feet, had a similar high school hijinks theme.

Bassist Clutch was content to contribute solid bottom end sounds throughout the gig, but perked up toward the show's conclusion and actually pogoed on the giddy, frenzied “Punk Rock Princess.” Come encore time, McMahon played “Konstantine” - his emotional epic ballad about life and love – solo until each musician gradually joined in. Finally, Something Corporate wrapped up the impressive set with a fun, syncopated “I Woke Up in a Car.”

Setlist: Something Corporate at the Grove of Anaheim, Aug. 27, 2010
Main set: 21 and Invincible/Hurricane/She Paints Me Blue/Space/The Astronaut/Fall/Watch the Sky/Me and the Moon/Straw Dogs/Only Ashes/Wait/Cavanaugh Park/I Want to Save You/Drunk Girl/As You Sleep/If You C Jordan/Punk Rock Princess
Encores: Konstantine/Ruthless/I Woke Up in a Car

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