Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness, Atlas Genius, and Night Riots
Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA

Boasting one of the heaviest-hitting pop lineups of the year, the Zombies in America Tour–Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness, Atlas Genius, and Night Riots–came alive at Seattle’s historic Neptune Theatre. Each band brought a little something special to create a big, climactic night full of energy and crowd connection.

California alt-rockers Night Riots opened the show with “All For You,” from their 2016 debut full-length, Love Gloom. And they killed it from there. They had a sadder, darker sound layered with vocals reminiscent of Brandon Flowers of The Killers. Their set was heavy and catchy at the same time. At the end, they took an unexpected turn and blacked out the lights. Each member of the band took a pair of glow-in-the-dark drumsticks and drummed along to finish out their set.

Hailing all the way from Adelaide, Australia, next on the lineup were Atlas Genius. Opening with “If So” to instantly get the crowd hooked, the guys had them dancing through the whole set. After minor technical difficulties with mic, lead singer Keith Jeffery quickly explained that when they face road bumps early in the set, that usually means the remainder of the night is going to be a real party. And that it was.

Their synth-laden, stadium-ready tracks even included a remastered version of “Spin Me Round.” Every member of the band was highly energized and seemed happy to be rocking out, especially given the tour was nearing its end. Powerhouse drums from Michael Jeffery behind the kit kept the set moving, laying the heavy-hitting base for their hook-over-hook tracks. A smooth transition into “Molecules,” and their big hit “Trojans” to close the set had all the fans shouting familiar lyrics and happily jumping along with the band.

Finally running on stage to start “Fire Escape” from behind his piano, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness had their fans cheering loud enough to shake the building, but these cheers quickly morphed into the words of the song. If the thought of watching a performance that centers around a guy playing a grand piano in the middle of the stage sounds a little boring, McMahon quickly proved that wrong.

When he wasn’t behind the keys, McMahon was running around passionately singing to fans, crowd surfing upon a giant blow-up rubber duck, or towering over everyone standing on the piano itself. Even while sitting and playing though, his energy is unrivaled, hardly ever sitting still.

Among handfuls of tracks that have become popular on alt-radio in recent years, “Swim,” a little sad song from a 2008 Jack’s Mannequin album, struck a chord somewhere deep. On the record, the track really doesn’t sound much different from a typical mid-2000’s sad song. Watching McMahon play it live, though, took it in a new direction. It was touching and delicate, focusing on the lyrical content.

The Zombies in America Tour was a shockingly lovely night. Opening with great tracks and funky lighting, Night Riots gave the night a perfect opening. Atlas Genius stole the night with their bright alt-pop party that left everyone sweaty and smiling. And finally, AMTW closed the night with an energetic and happy set, filled with big songs that translated perfectly.

Review by Lulu Dawson
Photos by Stephanie Dore

Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness, Atlas Genius, and Night Riots