AJR live in Philadelphia review: An experience like no other

AJR kicked off their srping tour in Philly.
Rodrigo Varela/GettyImages

The pop trio AJR broke onto stages last week on the East Coast for their highly anticipated tour of the band's 2023 album The Maybe Man. Dean Lewis opens all of the tour's shows through April and May, debuting at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 3.

After a spoken intro, clones of Jack appeared on stage, dramatically miming the album's title track before an intense breakdown with the real Jack bouncing onto the stage as the audience screamed the lines "One, two, pandemonium!" AJR's latest single "Yes I'm a Mess" got the stadium moving as Jack walked through buildings, across rooftops, and drove a car before a practical explosion.

They later performed a new mashup of their songs "I Won't" and "Birthday Party", calling a fan remix on YouTube their inspiration to make it a reality. "God is Really Real" got its live debut too, and the solemnity was felt throughout the arena as thousands of phone lights went up into the air.

AJR dazzled in Philadelphia

The energy quickly swept back in though, when fan favorites "The Good Part" and "Bang!" were performed, the latter receiving an extra-long drum solo and the brothers making shadow puppetry with their fingers. Ryan and Jack began pointing people out in the crowd as the show's first intermission before an orchestral rendition of "Inertia" that was teased on X filled the place. A studio acoustic version of the song with a pitched-down chorus was also teased, but the song was played normally live. Maybe we'll get an acoustic version of The Maybe Man?

AJR kept introducing new effects to the show as they flew into space in "Touchy Feely Fool", then fell back down again through the clouds and stars in "Karma", featuring Jack singing the song's entire outro rather than leaving it to the fans. Ryan performed alone for seven minutes as he sang each song in the "Turning Out" series, the first part from their 2017 album The Click, the second part from their 2019 album Neotheater, and the third part from their most recent album.

Suddenly, the rest of the band makes a surprise appearance deep into the crowd, playing "World's Smallest Violin" and "Steve's Going to London" from high seats in the venue. They journeyed back to the stage individually and played their 2018 anthem "Burn the House Down" before moving onto a How We Made segment.

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Each tour AJR does, they break down the production of a song from start to finish before performing it, this time giving the treatment to "Way Less Sad". Ryan started by slowing down a kick drum and speeding up a hi-hat, before getting tired and eating lunch. After hearing plate noises, this was incorporated into their song with piano and Adam's bass. Another day, Ryan got annoyed by Jack for watching old videos on his phone loudly, blurting "Would you put your phone down?!" This became a melody for the song, with live member Arnetta Johnson helping in this process.

They added more violin and hi-hat to the song before getting stuck on its main melody. Jack made some voice memos, but Ryan didn't like them so they went back to the videos they were watching before, recorded back when they were children. They used these to make the song's lyrics with this being the turning point where all of the song's instrumentation came in live and AJR performed it.

The band moved onto a couple of songs from Neotheater after, with "Don't Throw Out My Legos" and "100 Bad Days" preceding the closer. A series of fake-outs happen in this last segment, with a spotlight falling during "100 Bad Days", a false ending after the song, and the instrumental intro of "2085" before moving into their breakout hit "Weak". They move back into "2085" after, giving a speech about how their dad motivated them to ignore their haters on the internet before a massive animatronic Jack appeared behind the stage for the song's outro.

The show was an amazing experience, combining a concert with theatrical effects, elaborate stage designs, and interacting with the crowd. You can get tickets to their concerts through the band's website. Other openers for the tour include mxmtoon and Almost Monday, with 48 total stops throughout the United States. Below is the tour's setlist:

1. Maybe Man
2. Sober Up
3. Yes I'm a Mess
4. I Won't / Birthday Party
5. The DJ Is Crying for Help
6. God Is Really Real
7. The Good Part
8. Bang!
9. Inertia
10. Touchy Feely Fool
11. Karma
12. Turning Out / Turning Out Pt. ii / Turning Out Pt. iii
13. World's Smallest Violin
14. Steve's Going to London
15. Burn the House Down
16. How We Made / Way Less Sad
17. Don't Throw Out My Legos
18. 100 Bad Days
19. Weak
20. 2085

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