BY JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
What a spectacle of epic proportions this show was. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the theatrics or how impressive the light show would be at this performance, which was the final stop for the tour for acts The Juliana Theory, Dashboard confessional, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. When they came through the Arizona Financial Theatre on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, the audience was well prepared to sing back every lyric with as much passion as the humans on stage, and the show carried with it a sense of personality that is typically reserved for smaller venues and clubs.
It’s very obvious that the music still matters to these performers as much as the performance itself does, and that’s an excellent quality in today’s world of throw away garbage mixed in with catchy beats that are almost completely devoid of purpose or sense.
These artists wrote for albums, not singles, and while the music industry is rapidly moving in that direction, you can tell that between the three acts that shared the stage last night that they still have more to say.
The Juliana Theory graced the stage first, and while the set list was impressive, for the first few tracks we were all wondering if the audio was supposed to be as muted as it was. The cool thing about the Arizona Financial Theatre is that the barricade to the stage is so close that if you’ve got long enough arms, you’d be able to fist-bump any member playing on that stage. That also means that if you’ve got a loud enough voice – the artist will be able to hear anything you shout back to them, be it lyrics or chants of, “WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
Even the photographers who were in the pit looked over at each other trying to figure out what was going on with the audio.
But, I’ll say this – audio issues, while not uncommon in the music world, often times prove a good point. I’ve been to shows where they’re all pre-recorded, and while I won’t list names of those bands who dupe their fans into believing they put on a better live show than they really do (Keep It Simple Stupid), The Juliana Theory was obviously not doing that, so props to them for remaining authentic and true to themselves and their craft.
The audio issues finally got resolved though, and eventually people were shouting back lyrics to vocalist Brett Detar, who was sporting blue hair (is that an Arizona pun mister?) and bright yellow dress shoes. The band as a whole also displayed quite a bit more movement for a lighter rock band than I anticipated too, so that was pretty neat to see. Detar seemed to really enjoy whipping that microphone chord around, and the two accompanying guitar players were also getting into the show with sporadic movements. Notable tracks included some from their new EP titled Still The Same Kids Pt. 1, including, Less Talk, and some throwbacks to their Tooth & Nail days including, “We’re At The Top Of The World,” and “If I Told You This Was Killing Me Would You Stop?”
By the way, I miss song titles like this – let’s get back to more of that in the future.
Anyway, Dashboard Confessional was up next as they’ve been rotating on this run as the co-headliner on the Hello Gone Days Tour. They came on a bit earlier than we thought they would, but that’s alright. There was still time to see Chris Carrabba come out for a solo acoustic performance of “The Brilliant Dance” for the opening track before he was joined by the rest of the cast for the remainder of their set. Carrabba is probably one of the most talented musicians out there, and sure, while most know him for his wildly successful project Dashboard Confessional, he has also done other projects including Further Seems Forever (a personal favorite of mine), and folk outfit Twin Forks.
Stopping part way through the show, Carrabba asked the audience, “How far can we take this show back? 3rd album? First album maybe?” and the audience lost their ever-living shit. Capitalizing on the nostalgia from his earlier work, they went as far back as the early 2000’s, playing some enjoyable hits such as “The Sharp Hint of New Tears” from which the name of the band is derived, as well as, “Stolen” which the entire theatre could be heard singing back in unison, and the show wrapped up with the most notable hits, “Vindicated,” and “Hands.”
Andrew McMahon is also a multi-talented vocalist, having fronted such notable acts as Something Corporate, Jacks Mannequin, and now performing under his own moniker Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. The performance (which was the longest of the evening) included tracks from each of these projects, as well as a visually appealing light show, a surf duck, a multi-colored LED cape, and several oversized beach balls.
If anyone knows how to jam out on a piano, trust me, it’s this fella. And quite honestly, I’m surprised the piano wasn’t raised a bit because…well…McMahon often has trouble standing still whilst plunking away on those ivory keys.
Sure, he’s not the only artist to rake in ticket sales based on nostalgia in our post-Covid obsessed era, but he surely put on one of the best nostalgia-fueled shows of the summer. He spoke openly onstage about being jealous that some friends he had made in the industry were being nominated for Grammy awards, and it forced him to reflect on his life a little. “You know, I’ve been blessed to play all across the country for 20 years to guys like you. I’m a husband, a father, and I’ve got a roof over my head,” he stated in a moment of genuine gratitude for such a storied career.
Something I didn’t expect was the giant pool floatie that he used to crowd surf in on “Island Radio,” but it made me want to get back home to the pool after the show! It was awesome to see (although dimly lit), and it sort of pulled me back into my punk rock roots as it seemed like the very thing A Day To Remember would’ve done. But hey, for a 40-year-old pianist dude wearing a tucked in shirt it was pretty awesome to witness.
The audience was also more than willing to surf him around the entire general access area where quite a few fans had filled in by the time he took to the stage (stragglers, amiright?).
Andrew was also joined by Carrabba on his cover of The Cure’s hit “Just Like Heaven,” and the audience went insane. The pairing of these two vocally sort of makes me wish that they would do a collab album, at least an EP or something because the harmonies between the two was incredible to witness.
The most notable piece of the set for me though came at the encore where, still draped in the multi-colored LED cape (and accessory headband, also illuminated by LED lights), he waltzed his way through the audience all the way to the soundboard, cheered the crowd with a drink, and then finished up his performance by standing on top of his sticker-laden piano. Notable tracks from McMahon included “Bruised,” “Punk Rock Princess,” “Cecilia and the Satellite,” and “Synesthesia.”
It was an epic show for the last night of the tour, and fans everywhere should be thankful that they’ve gotten to see these idols roll through this year. We’re looking forward to what they do in the future, and can’t wait to see what they do next!
As always, a big thank you to the staff of the Arizona Financial Theatre for keeping everyone safe throughout the performance and to the staff at LiveNation for continuing to bring awesome shows to the Southwest corner of the country. Remember to keep wearing deodorant to concerts, stay hydrated, and don’t drive drunk!
The Juliana Theory