‘Twas the night before When We Were Young, and all through the House of Blues, the emos were most definitely stirring.
With a festival lineup so incredibly stacked, one name stood out to many - Something Corporate, the first of several iterations of singer Andrew McMahon’s career. Having met in high school, bandmates McMahon, Josh Partington, Brian Ireland, William Tell, and Kevin “Clutch” Page released two full albums by 2003, before going on indefinite hiatus. Though their discography may not be the longest, the band collected a devoted following, and spearheaded a career for McMahon, who has since released music and performed under Jack’s Mannequin and now as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. The band briefly reunited in 2010 for a reunion tour, but due to the members having their separate lives and careers, SoCo seemed to be in the past, save for a few guest appearances - such as at McMahon’s 40th birthday bash last September.
That is, until now.
While McMahon continues to perform songs from all eras of his career, Friday, October 20th at the House of Blues Las Vegas marked Something Corporate’s first headlining performance with their original five-piece lineup in two decades. And though time had passed, the enthusiasm of fans had not. Tickets sold out almost instantly, leaving the venue filled to the brim - and every last person who was lucky to find their way inside could not be more thrilled to be there.
Hours before the doors even opened, a line of eager fans snaked throughout the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Those closer to the front, having arrived early in the morning, passed their time making friendship bracelets featuring lyrics from their favorite songs, and handing them out to other fans - a true testament to the kindness and generosity that McMahon’s music has drawn over the years.
Cassadee Pope opened the concert with a short yet powerful set consisting of a mix of her solo music as well as beloved tunes from her previous band Hey Monday. Though it’s a tough ask to open for a pop punk band with a solo acoustic set, Pope did not disappoint, and commanded an attentive and respectful audience with her powerful voice and charisma. Included in her set were a cover of Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” the Hey Monday track “Candles” which featured in a Glee episode in 2011, and her solo song “Wasting All These Tears.”
Between sets, Something Corporate teased an upcoming event that McMahon has hinted to quite a bit recently. While the details aren’t released just yet, the unveiling of a screen promising a weekend in 2024 featuring all three of McMahon’s musical projects was greeted with screams and cheers, lighting up the room before the band even set foot on stage. Met with further cheers was the reveal of McMahon’s piano for the night; he’d traded in his usual baby grand for an upright, an homage to the pianos he toured with circa 2003, but with a modern twist - outfitted with LED screens, the piano sported multiple looks throughout the concert.
The band started their headlining set with a short video featuring clips of the band from the early 2000s, detailing their brotherhood and love of music - what originally brought them together in the first place. It ended with a quote from McMahon perfect to start the performance - “it’s good to be back.” The band then launched right into “Space,” a high-energy track from 2003’s North, featuring just the appropriate amount of screaming for a pre-When We Were Young crowd, as well as some plastic globes bounced around the audience. They followed with “I Woke Up In a Car,” which, while a longtime staple of McMahon’s solo set, took on an entirely new flavor when performed by the original Something Corporate lineup. Even so early in the evening, the mutual love and respect between the men on stage was apparent. Even after two decades the chemistry on stage was palpable; those years seem to have garnered a maturity that brought together a joyful performance that balanced the chaos and energy with a level of professionalism and new appreciation for the spotlight. The band followed with “She Paints Me Blue,” a more tender tune from SoCo’s discography, before jumping back into full rock band mode with “Straw Dog,” an underdog fan favorite from 2002’s Leaving Through the Window.
Before going into “Me And the Moon,” the screen behind the band displayed the first of several vignettes of the evening - titled “Something Clutch” and dedicated to bassist Kevin “Clutch” Page. A quieter yet dynamic presence on stage, in his video, he discussed how his love of bass became an outlet, despite being on the shy side. Following the brooding, darker tone of “Me And the Moon,” the band quickly brought the tone back up with “I Want To Save You,” another fan favorite that hadn’t seen the stage since 2010. Next came “Ruthless,” a bit of a cheeky release from the band, penned in reaction to the frustrations they felt under the thumb of their first major label deal.
The next vignette, “Something Josh,” went out to guitarist and writer Josh Partington. Now a lawyer by day, the younger Josh contemplated the beauty and vulnerability that is inherent in music. A lawyer by day, the guitarist brought some of the highest energy of the evening on the guitar-heavy “Only Ashes,” shredding the opening riff, a few guitar solos, and generally just hardly able to stand still throughout the entire concert. Next up was “The Astronaut,” a song that marked the beginning of a slew of space and sky themed songs throughout McMahon’s career. The performance also featured an inflatable astronaut bouncing around the crowd, which wound up in the hands of a very lucky and elated fan who got to bring it home. McMahon paused to tell the story of how the band got to record in the same studio as their idols, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, an experience that produced the aforementioned song about reaching through dreams. Continuing the theme, the band then broke into “Watch the Sky” - a song that, while it never formally found a home on any of SoCo’s records, became a deeply beloved B-side from McMahon’s discography, and one of the pianist’s own favorite songs to come from his high school band. The closing line, “today was a good day,” rang true in the ears of those who came from near and far for the concert. The section of the performance rounded out with “Down” and “Fall,” two more songs from the SoCo age that have been performed live only very scarcely since 2010, and met with the excitement of fans having waited a decade or more to hear them.
“Something Will” introduced the next portion of the evening. In his vignette, the guitarist jokes about being in a Star Trek club - a hilariously fitting introduction to “Cavanaugh Park,” a song about struggling to fit in. Next, McMahon joked about writing “21 and Invincible” as a birthday gift to himself years ago, and mentioned how the friend Adam mentioned in the previous song said he should rename it “41 and Invisible.” Though with the years McMahon has certainly realized no one is invincible, he’s remained anything but invisible; nearly an hour into the performance, the singer showed zero signs of slowing down. The next track “As You Sleep” featured some of McMahon’s best piano parts from the Something Corporate years, contrasted nicely by the following “Hurricane” - a more guitar heavy song that found McMahon wading through the audience, picking up a light-up flower crown in the process, but as always making it back to stage just in time for his solo in the bridge.
Drummer Brian Ireland’s younger self commented on how lucky the five friends are to be creating music in “Something Brian,” a sentiment the older version of himself clearly shares; though drummers are often the unsung heroes of a live performance, Ireland’s joy was infectious even from his spot at the back of the stage. McMahon then began “Konstantine” solo; rarely played due to the song’s impressive length of nearly ten minutes, the House of Blues was lucky to be treated to the entire, full version of the song, while the weekend’s festival sets would only get a single chorus for the sake of saving time. A holy grail song for many SoCo fans, many tears were shed throughout the audience during this one; the rest of the band took their time to say hello to each other and share a few hugs before joining in one by one for the rest of the song. The band then closed the main set with “If U C Jordan,” a song truly one of its time; almost comical in its description of a petty feud McMahon had with a high school rival, even so many later, there is something just so cathartic about screaming expletives in a room full of strangers who somehow also all feel like long time friends. Before leaving the stage, McMahon took time to introduce the rest of the band, with a special shout out to Zac Clark. Though not a member of the original SoCo lineup, Clark has been a part of McMahon’s touring band in more recent years after being a devout fan for many years, and so getting to perform with one of his teenage self’s favorite bands was an incredibly full circle moment for him. A good friend to crew and crowd alike, Clark’s presence has become an intrinsic part of McMahon’s performance in any iteration, and the audience was deeply proud to share the experience with him.
“Something Andrew,” underneath the floppy hair and big glasses, contemplated the therapeutic quality that writing music has taken on for him, and how he hopes it stays that way forever - and adult Andrew returned to the stage to confirm that it indeed has as well as to express his gratitude for the fans who have stayed around all these years and waited patiently for SoCo to return. He made sure to acknowledge the effort so many took to be there in person, as well as those watching the livestream from their homes across the globe. A true testament to the power of music, he led into “Walking By,” a ballad written to convince his then-crush, now-wife to fall in love with him; and clearly, it worked. The band made sure to pick up the energy one last time by closing the night with “Punk Rock Princess,” perhaps the best known track to come out of the Something Corporate discography. McMahon has often performed the song solo acoustic in recent years, but to hear it performed in its original form by the original band was a truly special experience. Even after nearly two hours of performing, the band was still bursting at the seams with energy to spare for the weekend to come.
Something Corporate left their audience with full hearts, some tear-stained cheeks, and a newly found appreciation for the music that was so formative to the adolescent years of so many. While the concert was an opportunity for longtime fans to see the band in a decade or two, or for newer fans to see the original lineup perform for the first time ever, the growth and maturity of those intervening years allowed for an entirely new perspective on music that has persisted so successfully. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait another thirteen years or more for the next reunion - that weekend in 2024 is most definitely calling the names of every last one of the concert’s attendees both in person and virtually watching the livestream from home.