Live: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness in Scottsdale

Selling out Scottsdale’s Livewire on a Tuesday night, the Zombies in America tour featuring Night Riots, Atlas Genius, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness proved a force to be reckoned with. The perfect mix of cool and hypnotic and warm and inviting, all three acts put on a show Scottsdale will be buzzing about for quite some time.

Night Riots kicked the night off, and damn, did they kick. A finely tuned machine, the five-piece performed with precision, finesse, and even choreography. The set truly went all-out, including props and a drum “solo” consisting of the whole band. The amount of thought, energy, and artistry that goes into Night Riot’s set makes them a rarity if not a treasure in the field of openers and musicians in general.

Atlas Genius then proved to be geniuses of working a crowd, putting on an engaging, playful show. Though less energetic and spunky than Night Riots, Atlas Genius exhibited a more sophisticated mastery of the audience that comes from years of experience.

Front man Keith Jeffery certainly took the lead in the performance, but even members trapped behind gear were soon to follow, truly taking every opportunity to create a visually dynamic show. The set alternated new and old material perfectly, keeping audience attention by sprinkling in the songs they knew with songs from their recently released sophomore album. They even threw in a cover of Dead or Alive’s “Right Round,” putting an edgy spin on the classic track.

Andrew McMahon has some special ties to Arizona—mentioning various cities (including Tempe, which is right down the road from Livewire) in his lyrics, as well as partnering with Scottsdale’s Mayo Clinic for his Dear Jack Foundation, McMahon clearly has fond feelings toward the state. He frequently stopped to tell stories about his various Arizona-centric adventures, eliciting groans and giggles from concert goers who know all too well the kind of trouble one can get into in the area.

The show was a marvel from a production standpoint, including gorgeous lights, the famous giant parachute stretching over the crowd, and yes—the photos you’ve seen on social media are real—McMahon’s voyage across the sea of hands in a massive inflatable rubber duck. A helmet-shaped screen with captivating graphics stood at the back of the stage, but was refreshingly not used for the whole set, but rather only when it really enhanced the performance.

Little limelight was given to the other members of the band, but truth be told, there’s a reason the shows are advertised with only Andrew’s brand: that’s who people come to see. McMahon effectively alternated between piano-based songs during which he had to be seated and songs where he was free to run around the stage—and run around he did.

Any dips in energy were clearly carefully calculated, and were quickly rescued with an anecdote or more upbeat song. Longer-time fans were pleased to hear plenty of Jack’s Mannequin covers woven throughout the set. McMahon also took the opportunity to bring us both Keith of Atlas

Genius and Matt of Night Riots for guest instrumental spots, making the tour seem like one big, happy family.

The Zombies in America tour is artfully crafted and perfectly executed to keep audiences of all ages hooked from start to finish. Featuring three insanely talented groups, the show brings around some of the most energetic performers on the scene right now. If you’re lucky enough to have it stopping in your city, you certainly won’t want to miss it.

-Kelly Fox