Michael and I saw the lovably misanthropic Aimee Mann in concert last night at Highline Ballroom (a great venue I'd never been to before, btw). I always get a kick out of it when people you admire behave exactly as you would expect (dare I say caricaturesque?), and from the moment she set foot on stage and opened with the audience-unfriendly "Stranger Into Starman" (from her new album, "Fucking Smilers"), you knew what you were going to get: 90 minutes of unadulterated cynical Aimee Mann, and all the glory that goes along with it (they'd been on "The View" earlier in the morning and Aimee had a lot to say about those people!). She and her entire band -- which had more keyboards than a Kraftwerk reunion -- were right on target, and while she focused heavily on the new release ("Looking for Nothing," "Freeway," "Phoenix," "31 Today" "Little Tornado" "Borrowing Time" and "The Great Beyond" just off the top of my head, the last song about which she quickly noted that people on her Web site's message board had declared the weakest track on the new disc, yet proceeded to perform it!), there was a nice assortment of older material too -- which, naturally, did not include a single 'Til Tuesday song. The crowd was heavily prone to screaming out requests (her fan base is of the stalker-cult variety, so no surprise there) and while no one dared scream out "Voices Carry' -- you know, the ONE SONG that put her on the map and is arguably the reason most people were aware of her in the first place -- when someone requested the more introspective "Coming Up Close," a personal fave of mine from her old band's nearly flawless sophomore effort, "Welcome Home," you would have thought they'd asked Aimee to do their laundry: "We may do 'Red Vines' and 'I've Had It' later, but we definitely will not be doing "Coming Up Close," she replied, in a tone dripping with indignation (see what I mean, exactly what you would expect!). She didn't acknowledge my b-side request of "Jimmy Hoffa Jokes," but I'm going to assume she appreciated it for its offbeat quality.
She seems to consider her "Magnolia"/"Bachelor No. 2" period her "heyday" (she's still bitter at Phil Collins for "stealing her Oscar") and songs from those two were considered her "old hits" in place of her two actual Top 40 songs, "Voices Carry" and "What About Love?"
A perfect fit, for a girl in need of a tourniquet
No doubt "Deathly," "Wise Up" and "Save Me" (clip above) have taken on a nostalgic quality to them, so no one was really complaining. Truly old songs like "4th of July" and "You're With Stupid Now" were crowd pleasers too. (I would have loved to have heard "Going Through the Motions" from her previous album, but you can't have everything.) All in all a great show from a one-of-a-kind artist who clearly plays by he own set of rules.
I also would like to mention that The Submarines opened the show and while I went into it having never heard of them, I now consider myself a HUGE fan. So often headliners pick inappropriate bands to open for them (why, I don't know, it's the perfect opportunity to introduce a new band), but Aimee was dead-on in thinking The Submarines would appeal to her fan base -- and boy did they ever. (The crowd was begging for more by the time they wrapped up their half-hour set.) It seems they're a husband-and-wife team (John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard) from Los Angeles by way of Boston (like Aimee, minus the Virginia part?). who both play guitars and sing. (There's also a fun drummer on board and a lot of pre-recorded music.) Between her little girl vocals (think Tanya Donelly with a hint of what I think Feist sounds like based on her Apple commercial) and his quasi Bernard Sumner harmonies (even though he's American and looks like a younger Brian Wilson), they're about the cutest, freshest new band I've heard since Ivy. Interestingly, the Feist comparison turned out to be more prophetic than I realized when I came home and found out that their unbelievably delightful song "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie" is currently featured in the new Apple iPhone 3G commercial! (Does Steve Jobs love fun girl singers the way I do or what?) It looks like their music has also been used on shows like "Weeds," "One Tree Hill" and "Nip/Tuck," so perhaps the Ivy comparison is apropos too given Ivy's former status as Hollywood soundtrack darlings of the 1990s. (And they're also a husband-and-wife with a third!) If it's true that bands must tour in order to make money these days, then The Submarines can consider last night a huge success. I'll definitely go see them if they come back to town, and I'm racing out to buy both of their CDs tomorrow. (Their opener, "Swimming Pool," is my absolute FAVE!)
Yes, she really is this kooky!