Aimee Mann searches deep in her soul.
Review and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhen we first met Aimee Mann, she was fronting the '80s pop act Til Tuesday, looking pretty on MTV in its heyday as she drove their hit singles "Voices Carry" and "Coming Up Close" up the charts. After the group's popularity peak rode out by the turn of the decade, it was a few years before we heard from Ms. Mann, who took the time away to not only break from the limelight, but to re-group with a completely new mentality. Mann's 1993 solo debut Whatever saw her switch from those sugary sweet pop sensibilities into more of down trodden, acoustic folk approach, as her mood also began to shift (from merry to melancholy). From 1995's I'm With Stupid to significant contributions on 1999's Magnolia film soundtrack, the basis of that tone could quite possibly stem from mounds of major label mishaps and record company disasters, but finding an independent home of her own come 2000's Bachelor No. 2 didn't exactly lift her sprits.
In fact, her latest indie release Lost in Space (SuperEgo) continues down Mann's moody streak, and once again covers a wide range of emotions (including obsession, bitterness, addiction, depression, and despair). Despite the disc's one and only hint at cheerfulness (the cut "Humpty Dumpty") her overflowing honesty, evocative sentiment, and delicate musical craftsmanship were enough to pack the Riviera Theatre on a Saturday night for a special seated performance. Mann, backed by her four-piece band, certainly made no apologies for her misery, and in the case of cuts like "This is How It Goes," "The Moth," and the new disc's title track, almost seemed to revel in such despair. "This is probably the saddest song I've ever written" quipped Mann before the subdued drone of "Lost in Space," confirming that it wasn't just listeners' imagination that the poetic songwriter was digging deeper into a spirit of anguish. Back to back presentations of Magnolia's "Wise Up" and "Save Me" were also loaded with emotional imagery, as Mann solemnly strummed her acoustic guitar and emphatically interpreted the poignant lyrics.
As heart wrenching as such sentiments were, Mann may have basked a bit too much in such dark and dingy demeanor throughout her 90-minute set. The most entertaining moments were instead the periods of comic relief, such as her folksy gallop about quirky character traits ("That's Just What You Are") and the new cut "Invisible Ink," during which Mann playfully forget some of the chords. Another point of fun came during her second encore when fans shouted out various requests, including everything from "Voices Carry" to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." She entertained the crowd with a brief parody of the classic rock concert standard before giving way to the obligatory Til Tuesday catalogue gem, both earning several screams of glee. However, as Mann settled into the second, those joyous shouts soon turned into a subdued hush as she stripped down the pop ditty to a reflective dirge. It wasn't the version of "Voices Carry" everyone was used to hearing, although it was much more appropriate as she's tried to shed that group's skin for quite sometime.
All in all, Mann's mood swings and brash tones aren't for everyone' (thus explaining why many of her albums have often been commercially overlooked) but it's underground acceptance that has kept her tank from running on empty after 15 years in the music business. Now if only Mann would turn her frown upside down and be open to delivering a few more lighthearted lessons of love (which she proved on at least a couple of occasions in Chicago) then perhaps she wouldn't be so "lost in space."
Return to Reviews
Return to Menu