Aimee Mann: When 'Perfect' is Ho-Hum?
J. Gordon
2/6/2006 12:11:22 AM

Last year, Pitchfork Weekly wrote a review for Aimee Mann’s latest CD, The Forgotten Arm [Superego Records], that pretty much went: “Another perfect Aimee Mann CD. Ho hum.” When ‘perfect’ isn’t magic enough, some people just can’t win. Thing is, that’s kind of how Aimee Mann’s latest show in St. Louis went, too.

There certainly was nothing to complain about: Aimee was in fine tune, and her multi-instrumentalist partners Paul Bryan (bass, backing vocals and acoustic guitar) and Jamie Edwards (guitar, accordion, piano and synthesizer/keyboards) were a perfect match harmonically to Mann’s sometimes haunting, charmingly displaced voice.

Opening with the killer tune, “Heroin,” Aimee Mann mixed the old with the new, but being sure to give plenty of attention to the new CD. She explained the concept of “The Forgotten Arm”—a concept CD story of a girl who falls in love with a boxer on the road.

The Magnolia soundtrack {Reprise/WEA] songs were perhaps the best-received (and best known) from the full house of somewhat sedate, mostly over-30 audience. Aimee Mann was funny, too: When she introduced, “Save Me,” she said, “Yes, it’s the song that lost an Oscar to Phil Collins and his cartoon monkey!”

Still as tall and lean in jeans and cowboy boots as she was when she first sang songs like, “You Could Make a Killing” from the 1996 I’m with Stupid [Geffen] album, Mann laughed that she was “completely distracted,” throughout her performance, due to a slipping bra strap. “It’s not really an appealing bra,” she explained in attempt to discourage hoots and hollers. “It’s just a plain beige bra—a grandma bra. No thrills for the first row.” Then she put on a voice as if audience members were reflecting back on the night, “Remember that Aimee Mann show when her bra was hanging out?”

The stage set was simple with a few well-chosen lights and a projection screen that alternated artwork from her last few albums. By the middle of the show, the crowd hung on to her amusing stage banter as much as they listened to any song she sang—it seemed there was a good story around almost every tune: “This song was originally written for a scene in the Tom Cruise movie, Jerry McGwire, she said. “I can’t remember the actual scene, but he thrust his arm up into the air in love with someone. It was the same gesture he used to proclaim his love for Katie Holmes on Oprah. It’s kind of disturbing, when you think of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Don’t you kind of think of Rosemary’s Baby?” Then she chastised herself, saying, “You are a bad person,” and launched into “Wise Up.”

Switching instruments, from guitar to piano, Mann also switched albums from her vast repertoire and launched into “Nothing Is Good Enough” from Bachelor No. 2 [Superego Records]. Sitting in front of the baby grand, the microphone dropped in its stand. “There’s nothing more debilitating than a drooping microphone. Am I right, ladies?” she joked. Declaring she’d only played the tune once without a mistake, she pulled it off flawlessly—to these ears, anyway. Meanwhile, Edwards and Bryan switched their instruments around, Bryan moving to piano, and Edwards taking helm at the glockenspiel, and then synthesizer over canned drum beats for “You Do,” another from the Magnolia album. The beauty of Aimee Mann’s music is that the lyrics, delivery and melody are all so good that it can hold up in an acoustic-only setting such as this: every song stands on its own with just a guitar because you can tell that’s how they were written. The backing vocals, the keyboards and glockenspiels—they’re just bonus.

Opening act, singer/songwriter, Adam Levy, joined the trio later on, playing bongos to “Frankenstein.” Immediately following the song, someone from the crowd yelled, “Aimee, the tan bra is hot!”

“It’s so grandma it’s pathetic,” she responded. “I won’t even tell you what underwear I’m wearing. But it’s not a thong. That’s one hint.”

And then she told us what she said she wouldn’t. “It’s not women’s underwear, either. I just find men’s underwear more sturdy. This discussion is going to haunt me…probably on my website message board at one in the morning…”

Encores included, “That’s How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart,” “Red Vines,” “The Other End (of the Telescope),” and “Deathly.”

All in all, a great show. A decent length, no technical problems, no forgotten lyrics—and yet—nothing that took our breath away, either. It’s hard to say why. Ho-hum.


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