Andrew McMahon Covers Springsteen, The Grateful Dead at Billboard Lounge

Michelle Farsi/Barclays Center 2016
Andrew McMahon performs in the Billboard Lounge on Feb. 1st, 2016 at the Barclays Center. 

Over the years, Andrew McMahon has been a pop-punk superstar with Something Corporate, an emo-leaning alt-rocker with Jack’s Mannequin, and a new-school fun.-style popster with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He’s never pegged himself as one thing, and Monday night (Feb. 1), he tried a couple more personas on for size.

Performing at the Billboard Lounge in Barclays Center, McMahon played a shadowy loverman on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and a rambling outlaw-type of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.” These two covers were the highlights of his five-song set—not because his originals fell flat, but because it was neat to watch this clean-cut 33-year-old singer and pianist apply his bouncy, Ben Folds-esque aesthetic to a pair of classic-rock favorites.

It’s actually not such a stretch. McMahon opened the show with “High Dive,” the second single from 2014’s Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness. Even with a bare-bones stage set-up that included two members of Jack’s Mannequin and one guy from McMahon’s solo band backing him on acoustic guitar and sequencers, “High Dive” had a melody reminiscent of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.”

“The stars are out tonight,” McMahon sang, landing somewhere between Weezer and Elton John. “One million fires burning.”

McMahon rounded out the set with Jack’s Mannequin’s chipper pop-rock gem “La La Lie,” dedicated to “good friends,” and the 2014 Alternative Songs Top 10 hit “Cecilia and the Satellite,” which he sent out to his young daughter, who’s helped him find happiness in the aftermath of his 2005 bout with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

If McMahon doesn’t share a whole lot in common with the characters in those Boss and Dead tunes, he’ll leave the door open for some badass behavior. As he left the stage to “get drunk with you all,” he hinted that a shot or two could lead to some wee-hours encore action. “The piano,” he said, “will be here all night.”