WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — Less than six months after undergoing two rounds of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant, Andrew McMahon accomplished a major milestone Wednesday night, playing his first full concert as a cancer survivor.
With his until-recently bald head and fragile face now covered in hair, the Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin singer took the Viper Room stage with a big smile and proceeded to entertain the capacity crowd with a high-energy show that included a cameo from Tommy Lee.
McMahon referenced his recent battle with leukemia McMahon referenced his recent battle with leukemia (see “Something Corporate Singer In Remission After Stem-Cell Transplant” ) only slightly throughout his uplifting, often hilarious between-song banter, such as when he caught a whiff of marijuana in the room. “Ah, someone’s smokin’ the sweet stuff,” he said. “I can’t do that — it comes in pill form.”
Before the show, McMahon spoke with the same humorous spirit.
“I’m like a Neanderthal all a sudden,” he said, rubbing in his hand through his beard. “They put me on testosterone, so it’s growing fast. My voice is getting lower by the day. No, but it’s definitely a transition. You come back different than you were before. I’m definitely a lot leaner than I was. I can’t break 120 pounds to save my life, but I’ve come to terms with it.”
McMahon is still on some medication, but says he’s nearing 100 percent.
“I have [bad] moments every now and again, but for the most part, I’m energized up,” he said. “Now it’s like getting back the muscles I lost. It’s like, you can only lie in bed for so many months. So I started working out again, and I cripple myself once or twice just trying to raise the bar a little bit.
“Every day is kind of a new adventure and we get a little bit further,” he continued. “But the progress has definitely been noticeable on a weekly basis, and we hope it continues in that direction. Obviously, I’m not out of the woods completely — stuff can still happen. So I try not to let the fact that I feel good and have energy keep me from being careful about everything.”
McMahon admitted, however, that he was pushing himself to the limit with Wednesday’s show, in which he played Everything in Transit, the Jack’s Mannequin debut he released last fall, from beginning to end.
“I’ve always wanted to do that with an album and never done it,” he said. “But this record has more of a flow than anything I’ve done before and more of an intentional plotted story line.”
As McMahon and his Jack’s Mannequin band neared the end of the record, the singer brought up “Mr. Thomas Lee” for “You Can Breathe.” “Tommy played the drums on most of the record and did it in a day,” McMahon told the crowd. “So I’m surprised he remembered it.”
Jack’s Mannequin, sans Lee, will be playing a few more shows around Southern California over the coming months, with a full tour being scheduled for summer.
In the meantime, McMahon’s giving a big push to his first single, “The Mixed Tape,” for which an animated video was released in the fall while the singer was hospitalized.
For starters, McMahon performed the song on an upcoming episode of “One Tree Hill” in which Hilarie Burton’s character hosts a cancer benefit concert. The song is also the first single from the soundtrack, due February 7. “Music used to be my main focus in life, now it’s music and raising cancer awareness, so it seemed like a good opportunity,” McMahon said.
While in Wilmington, North Carolina, filming the show, he also shot a new video for the song, starring Burton.
“I drop a package off at her house with a mixtape in it and a flier for a Jack’s Mannequin show, so I guess I’m the stalker dude trying to get the girl to come see the show — which I have done before,” McMahon said of the video’s concept. “She’s listening to the tape, painting, and then ends up seeing the flier and coming in at the end of the show.”
Although he had to make a cross-country drive to shoot the video (his doctors wouldn’t allow him to fly), McMahon thoroughly enjoyed the process.
“Everything I’ve done lately has revolved around my illness and recovery, and it’s nice to be doing some things now that are really just about promoting the record, and things I would be doing otherwise,” he said. “I’m glad to be in a little bit more of a normal stride.”
For more on Andrew McMahon, check out the feature “Fighting for His Life.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.