Andrew McMahon at First Avenue: A Story in Three Pianos

Andrew McMahon - Photography by Dylan Novacek

Last updated on October 27th, 2021 at 02:36 pm

Andrew McMahon, Three Piano Tours. Photography and review by Dylan Novacek.

Andrew McMahon brought a brilliant evening of storytelling and live music to First Avenue’s mainroom. Supporting his upcoming memoir entitled Three Pianos, the stage was set for an intimate performance which celebrated each stage of his career. 

Andrew McMahon, Photography by Dylan Novacek

“We’re safe between the speakers,” Andrew reflected as he looked out onto the audience.

Being vulnerable with his fans, we heard stories of the pivotal moments from his life. Songs like Ohio chronicled his life-changing move to the west coast. Deep cuts like There, There Katie, written for his sister who saved his life with a bone marrow transplant. Weaving through fan favorites and some rarities, the setlist was absolutely perfect. 

Andrew McMahon – Photography by Dylan Novacek

The stage lights lowered to a dark blue (pun intended) as he started playing Swim, one of my all-time favorite songs. Singing along, I looked down at my newest tattoo which reads, “find the horizon”, a lyric from that song. 

Following this, he’d perform Dark Blue and then Something Wild, which just so happens to be the song I walked down to at my wedding earlier this year! With this being my seventh time seeing him live, it’s safe to say that Andrew McMahon is one of the most influential artists in my life. 

Andrew McMahon – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Telling the story of his life through three pianos, I felt it was appropriate to reflect on my own life through three Andrew McMahon shows: 

Andrew McMahon, First Avenue, Three Pianos Tour – Photography by Dylan Novacek

My first Andrew McMahon concert was in January of 2013. I was a junior in high school who was just discovering my love for music. Bands like Panic! At The Disco and FUN. brought me into the world of music fandoms and concerts. I got to see FUN. at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, with Andrew as an opener. (Ironically, Andrew’s song Synesthesia references his friends in FUN.)

Andrew McMahon, Roy Wilkins Auditorium 2013

My friend and I were full of puns that night. As Andrew performed and we sat in the nosebleeds, we’d shout, “This isn’t FUN. at all. What is this? Something Corporate?!” I am now fully aware of how unnecessary and unfunny that was. 

Andrew McMahon, Summerfest 2016

My next time seeing Andrew wouldn’t be for another few years. It was the summer of 2016, and I was at the beginning of my journey as a concert photographer. My friends and I drove down to Summerfest in Wisconsin to see Panic! At The Disco, Weezer, and Andrew McMahon. 

While we drove I was emailing with the press folks at Summerfest, hoping upon hope that I could get a pass to be in the photo pit and do photos up close. Luckily, I was given a photo pass. However, I was unaware that it wasn’t valid for the stage where Andrew was performing. I was abruptly kicked out of the venue during his set to put my camera at coat check, with only one photo to show for it. Luckily, I would have a lot more Andrew shows after this. 

Andrew McMahon, First Avenue 2017

In 2017, I won a pair of tickets to see Andrew at First Avenue. I decided to invite the girl I had been dating to go with me. This girl would later on become my wife. It was our first concert together, and her first show aside from seeing One Direction in high school. We got to meet Andrew afterward too!

Since that show in 2017, so much has happened. I would continue pursuing my dream of doing concert photography, meet Andrew a handful of times, and most importantly marry my concert date! Standing at the barricade at his show in 2021, I look next to me and see my wife singing along. 

Kayla Novacek – Photography by Dylan Novacek

What makes Andrew McMahon so special is his connection with the audience. At one point during his performance, he talked to some fans who were attending their first show since losing one of their friends. He then dedicated the song 21 And Invincible to them.

Andrew McMahon – Photography by Dylan Novacek

The highlight of the night came when Andrew welcomed his daughter Cecilia on stage while he sang Cecilia and the Satellite. It was sincerely the most heartwarming moment I’ve seen at a concert. The love he has for his daughter is incredibly genuine and wonderful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Cecilia and Andrew McMahon – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Support acts for the tour were Zac Clark and Annika Bennett. Fans of Andrew McMahon best know Zac for his time performing alongside Andrew during previous tours. 

Zac Clark, First Avenue, Three Pianos Tour – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Gracing the stage with his hippy energy, Zac set the tone for the night. Fans slowly began to fill the mainroom during his intimate performance. Initially unaware that the show was 18+, he warned fans about the lyrical content of his song Holy Shit, joking it can also be called Holy Chips

Zac Clark, First Avenue, Three Pianos Tour – Photography by Dylan Novacek

During his performance, songs like Holy Shit, How Wild Are We and Mountains stood out as my favorites. In the wings, you could see Andrew and Cecilia watching from stage left. 

Annika Bennett, First Avenue, Three Pianos Tour – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Annika Bennett blew the audience away with her charm and brilliant songwriting. After discovering her music online, Andrew invited her on board, unaware that she had never been on tour before. 

I genuinely believe that Annika is going to have a lot more tours ahead of her. She has an incredible gift as a singer and songwriter. Following her performance, I took some time to listen to her on Spotify and I highly recommend you do the same. Check out her tracks Sober Up and Only Emotion

Annika Bennett, First Avenue, Three Pianos Tour – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Closing out the night, Andrew welcomed his support acts on stage along with Cecilia and his wife. Everyone came together for a family sing-along of La La Lie. There was this sense of joy and community that hasn’t been felt for a long time. For me, this was my first time back at First Avenue since the pandemic, which made this moment extra special. It felt so good to be back! 

Andrew McMahon, Zac Clark, Cecilia and Kelly – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Like I said in my last Andrew McMahon review, no one puts on a show like him. Each tour feels so unique and special. Whether it’s a pool party-themed show or a night of storytelling, it’s clear that Andrew is an expert at putting on memorable live performances!

Andrew McMahon – Photography by Dylan Novacek

Written by Dylan Novacek

Photographer, graphic designer, and multimedia storyteller from St. Paul. Most likely listening to CHVRCHES, Of Monsters and Men or Fall Out Boy. Once featured in the New York Times for using the bathroom during Avengers: Endgame.


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