She has the musical chops to carry off one hell of a concert, but she can also entertain a crowd with little effort.
The Sheldon, St. Louis
Seeing an Aimee Mann concert is, simply put, spectacular. With no opening act, the artist casually walked onto the stage to thunderous applause, wearing that Aimee Mann smile. Her band included a bassist and a piano/keyboard player, and the crowd varied across demographics. She opened the show with “Goodbye Caroline,” followed by “The Moth,” “You Could Make a Killing,” and “Labrador.”
If you do not follow her, you may not know about her cunning sense of humor that definitely comes out during her live shows. (Search “Aimee Mann Portlandia” on YouTube; trust me on this one.) Many tend to put her in the “sad music” category, but she also has this quick, dry wit. Mann is not one to talk a lot about her songs, but she told a story regarding how another musician she knew that would introduce a song by saying, for example, “This is a song about sour grapes. It’s called ‘Sour Grapes.’” This caused a pretty big chuckle throughout the crowd. Without missing a beat, she said, “This is a song about someone needing saving. It’s called ‘Save Me,’” creating even more laughter.
I have to admit that “Save Me” is one of my favorite songs by her, and one that got me listening to her music a long time ago. After “Save Me,” she sang the following four songs: “Slip and Roll,” “Going Through the Motions,” “Dear John,” and “Little Bombs.” Upon completion of this run of songs, she began to speak about and play songs from an album that she “really does not have a clue when it will be released.” There is that humor again, which she delivers like a veteran comic. She played the two new songs called “Stuck in the Past” and “Good for Me.”
While discussing the album, Mann drew upon her sense of humor in noting how depressing her music can be. She explained how a told her she should call the album what it really reflects; thus, the album’s name will apparently be Mental Illness. This drew a huge roar from the crowd, with many clapping in support of the title.” (Side note: This will be her first solo album since Charmer was released in 2012, although she did an album with fellow musician Ted Leo in 2014, a collaboration they call “The Both.” Mann and Leo have collaborated for several years now, and make a great team. I was fortunate enough to catch Mann the last time she was in St. Louis in 2012, and Leo opened the show.)
Next, she played “Fourth of July,” and then took requests from the audience. The loudest audience member asked for “Amateur,” about which Mann expressed doubt at being able to remember the song. A few chords in and this was clear, as she made up incredibly funny lyrics. She played “I’ve Had It” instead, a song off of her first solo album. After that she delivered “Red Vines” which you could tell was an audience favorite. Mann reported that “Red Vines” would be the last song before we cheer like mad, then they pretend an encore was not already in the works: once again, her sarcastic, dry humor at work.
She and her band came back out to the audience still on their feet, something that seemed truly to take her by surprise. The encore gave us to special songs that happen to be two of my favorites. First, she sang “Wise Up” which won critical acclaim as a part of the Magnolia soundtrack. (An interesting fact about “Wise Up” is that the song was originally intended for the Jerry Maguire soundtrack. Cameron Crowe ended up cutting the song from the movie, but after hearing the demo again, told Mann that he could not believe he cut it, and then added it back in. Talk about a great two-for-one deal!) She ended the encore by playing “One” (also from Magnolia), the song I would have chosen had I called out when she was asking for requests. Just when we thought the show was over, Mann and her band returned. She stated they “remembered a song,” and they launched into “Deathly.”
Aimee Mann continues to get better with every passing year. She has the musical chops to carry off one hell of a concert, but she can also entertain a crowd with little effort. She captivates everyone in attendance—and as long as she performs live, you can count on me being in attendance. | Tracy Fort