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Aimee Mann at the Old Town School of Folk Music

Posted in Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the September 20th, 2010

Last night, we took in the last of Aimee Mann’s weekend shows here in Chicago. It was our first visit to the Old Town School of Folk Music concert hall, a compact little room with great sight lines and sound. The entire weekend was sold out; the crowd was mostly old (like myself) and took a little while to get loosened up, but Aimee’s painfully beautiful songs won them over and earned enthusiastic standing ovations at the end.

I’ve been a fan of Aimee’s music for twenty years, but this was the first time I’d seen her in concert. She has a kind of skitterish stage presence, an absence of polish that begins to take on its own charisma as you get used to it. Through the course of the evening she carried on a running gag about what it meant for her to playing in a school of folk music. She opened the show with a solo version of “The Moth,” but then was joined by Jamie Edwards on keyboards and Paul Bryan on bass (both also sang harmony). No drummer, though Aimee did tap on a high-hat cymbal during one number (and she and Edwards dueted on recorders on another). She was in magnificent voice all night, the only signs of strain coming on a few very low notes near the end of the concert.

The core of the set list consisted of a series of tunes from the musical she is currently composing based on her terrific 2005 concept album The Forgotten Arm. This included three new compositions, including the stunning “Easy to Die,” which Aimee described as the most depressing song she’s ever written. The regular set closed with several songs from the Magnolia soundtrack, including a fine jazzed up version of the old Harry Nilsson, Three Dog Night hit “One,” with pianist Edwards vamping away.

You know how when you’re a longtime fan of a musical artist, over the years you fade in and out. I’ve been following Aimee Mann for nearly two decades now, but lately I’ve been on a “fade out” cycle. I haven’t much listened to her recordings the past six months or so. But in the lead up to last night’s concert, I started listening to the CDs again and remembering why I like them so much, and then the live show performed a kind of emotional rescue on my spirits after an inexplicably depressed weekend. Like a homeopathic remedy, Aimee’s melancholic songs lifted me out of my own melancholy, and I find myself in love with her music again.

The Set List (done from memory, so it might not be exact):
The Moth
Freeway
Little Bombs
31 Today
Medicine Wheel (Aimee on the piano)
Going Through The Motions
Easy To Die (new song)
Conflicted (new song)
Eiffel Tower (new song)
I Can’t Get My Head Around It
Guys Like Me
Build That Wall
Save Me
Wise Up
One

Encore: (Aimee switched over to playing bass)
Lost in Space
Driving Sideways
Red Vines (someone in the front row was holding up a package of Red Vines licorice)
It’s Not (Aimee introduced it as the “second most depressing song I’ve ever written)

(Here’s the Chicago Tribune review of last Thursday’s show.)

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