Despite appearances on this blog, I haven't lost my enthusiasm for live music, but other priorities come up, and I'm making peace with the idea of not seeing every band that comes through town -- or, more pointedly, necessitates a trip outside of city limits (sigh, but more on that later). In fact, I probably would've skipped Aimee Mann's three-night stand at Yoshi's entirely if it weren't for a friend's visit, so I'm glad for the intervening influence.
Aimee Mann, Yoshi's, October 8, 2010: Those of you on Facebook may have been tagged in the relatively recent meme in which you list your 15 favorite albums in 15 minutes. I did my part, but I still feel pangs of regret over names I missed. High among them: Aimee Mann (and, well, women in general). If I had five more slots, Bachelor No. 2 would be right there!
Despite my brain fart, Aimee easily ranks as one of my favorite songwriters, and her live show has come a long way from her self-proclaimed nervousness of earlier outings. In the right place and with the right players, she really hits her groove. This gig came through on both points. For one, Aimee was joined by Paul Bryan and Jamie Edwards, rounding out the "acoustic Moog trio" she debuted around the time of Smilers. Secondly, the venue suited them beautifully--a proper, intimate room with seated arrangements, fine acoustics, and a loving crowd, not unlike that old place on Fairfax Avenue and, at the least, a far cry from the Arrow Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Setting the scene, a guy in the audience even yelled out, "I live for you!" shortly after Aimee took the stage. Rather than being creeped out, Aimee embraced it. To the fan's credit, who could blame him? Aimee looked fantastic in an ensemble topped by what appeared to be a blazer from Rico's husky boys collection. ("Is that what 'ragazzi robusti' means?")
The heart of this show appeared to be the new material Aimee is writing for a musical based on The Forgotten Arm, her concept album from a few years ago. Among the new titles were a duet with Paul Bryan and another tune she called the most depressing song she's ever written--which is saying a lot, considering her back catalog. If the lyrics are anything to go by, the title of that tearjerker may be something along the not at all forboding lines of "It's Easy to Die."
Another twist on the typical Aimee Mann show was her additional instrumentation--namely, her work on the high hat, operated by foot. With Paul mostly on bass and Jamie on piano and keyboards, Aimee supplemented her contributions on guitar with a touch of percussion. It was a nice embellishment, and it helped replicate the rich sound that's a hallmark of her albums.
In addition to tracks from The Forgotten Arm, Aimee focused on material from the Magnolia soundtrack and Lost in Space. Oddly, nothing from the earliest albums surfaced, which is always a bit of a downer to me, though I loved what I heard too.
If I had to name my favorite Aimee show, it'd be a toss-up between the two gigs I saw at the old Largo: the first one for revealing another side of her live personality, the second for the outright humor. At both shows, the song that became "Medicine Wheel" jumped out at me. At its debut, Aimee mentioned it was an attempt to write a song like Fiona Apple's, but tonight, she talked a little more about its origins as a poem by her sister that she set to music. And just as with that first performance, she started it on piano, but was soon joined by Jamie, who provided the more expansive and mellifluous notes.
In between songs, Aimee talked a lot. Much of the material centered on explaining the new musical, but she got in other fun asides, including a diss on the poetry appearing in The New Yorker and laments about the state of her hair. It's safe to say that Aimee has and continues to evolve as a live performer, one whom I'll enjoy watching for years to come.
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