Before the first note of the evening rang out, the answer to why I fall short of being a bigger fan of Aimee Mann’s music was best summed up by the singer-songwriter herself. Describing her songs as “slow, sad and depressing,” she hit the nail right on the head. I don’t do sad very well.
My lack of enthusiasm for her live sets may have also been exacerbated by the fact that in the past, I had only seen her perform by herself. Tonight, however things would be different. Although the mood was still quite melancholy, the full-band treatment of her songs and the charm and wit of opener and guest-accompanist Jonathan Coulton made for a livelier and more joyful evening than her somber solo sets.
Coulton kicked things off with an entertaining selection of clever songs that found me asking myself whether I had room in my life for another satiric songwriter. In the end, his songs were enough to catch my interest and Coulton’s CDs will soon find space in the “Cynical” section of my collection alongside the likes of Loudon Wainwright III and Steve Poltz. During his brief set, we saw the first of Ms. Mann who I must say looked quite the cool rock star backing Jonathan behind a big bass guitar.
Backed by a trio of keyboards, bass and drums, Aimee kicked things off with “4th of July” from her great 1993 debut solo record, Whatever. Its classic depressing line “what a waste of gunpowder and sky,” started the sequence of sad slow songs, including several from her latest record, the fittingly titled “Mental Illness.” Other Mann fan favorites were sprinkled into her set, including her Academy Award nominated “Save Me” from the 2000 film Magnolia.
Speaking of awards, Aimee remarked how both she and Coulton were nominated for Grammys this year. As I might have bet that night, she later wound up winning for Best Folk Album, and he lost his surprisingly out-of-the-blue nod for Best Recording Package.
The encore section turned out to be the “happy” segment of the set, if only for the fact that we heard two very familiar songs. The first was Aimee’s cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One” that was a big hit for Three Dog Night in the days of AM radio. The second was her big song with her 80s band ‘Til Tuesday, “Voices Carry,” that made her an MTV star back on the days when that channel played videos.
Well, whether you like sad songs or not, Mann is a gifted writer and musician. She presented an enjoyable show that gave me several opportunities to smile.
- 4th of July
- Little Bombs
- Stuck in the Past
- Patient Zero
- The Moth
- The Labrador
- Humpty Dumpty
- You Never Loved Me
- Goose Snow Cone
- Good for Me
- Save Me
- Going Through the Motions
- Borrowing Time
- Long Shot
- One (Nilsson cover)
- Wise Up
- Voice Carry (‘Til Tuesday song)
Aimee Man—vocals, acoustic guitar and keyboards
Jamie Edwards— keyboards
Jonathan Coulton – acoustic guitar and backing vocals on 8, 9, 10 & 11