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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Aimee Mann: Live At St. Ann's Warehouse


1) The Moth; 2) Sugarcoated; 3) Going Through The Motions; 4) Amateur; 5) Wise Up; 6) Save Me; 7) Stupid Thing; 8) That's Just What You Are; 9) Pavlov's Bell; 10) Long Shot; 11) 4th Of July; 12) King Of The Jailhouse; 13) Deathly.

From the few extra snippets I've seen on Youtube and other God-blessed sources, Aimee is not a "great" live performer. Her simple, realistic (or, to be more precise and more obscure, "post-neo-realistic") take on things ensures that in her live show, she carefully avoids all the elements of an actual "show". In her 'Til Tuesday and early solo days, she at least used to wiggle her behind a bit — then realized it wasn't such a pretty sight and became a major competitor for Dylan as "The Most Frozen Celebrity Onstage".

Not that the fans should mind — for all we know, the world is suffering from a surplus of lively stage performers, and the "frozen" attitude is arguably the best attitude for the kind of music Aimee is writing these days. More disturbing is the fact that the audio aspect of the live perfor­mance adds next to nothing to the studio experience; Mann doesn't care much for jamming, im­provising, or even slightly rearranging her old songs. Out of the thirteen songs on here, only 'Long Shot' is clearly different in that a lengthy (and good) guitar solo concludes the performance; every other difference is microscopic at best.

Of course, if you do not set yourself a specific major goal of capturing extra fans with your live per­formance, that's all you need to do: just go out there, stand like a statue with your eyes closed, and concentrate exclusively on delivering the goods in a faithful manner. So what's the point of releasing a joint DVD-CD edition of this experience? Make money? But it's supposed to be un­der­stood that Aimee doesn't care much for money, money can't buy her... never mind. Satisfying fan demand? She doesn't seem to be that much of a fan-loving person either.

Let's just settle temporarily on the idea that she wanted to have this herself, as a little souvenir of the glory days to nostalgize to twenty or thirty years on. She does look great — so thoroughly un­cool in her rigid suit and tie that it makes her the coolest being on Earth. And she sounds great — not a note out of place, actually, maybe even a wee bit more confident on oldies like 'Stupid Thing' and 'Sugarcoated' than a decade earlier. The setlist is predictably skewed in favour of the then-currently promoted Lost In Space... not, with only two songs on the CD and an extra 'Hum­pty Dumpty' on the DVD; instead, the setlist is relatively evenly scattered through all of her solo output, so much that some recommend this as a decent substitute for a best-of package — I really don't know about that, since she's so frustratingly consistent you'd have to buy all the albums anyway. As an added bonus, she also "previews" two of the best songs from her next record, The For­gotten Arm.

That's about all there is to say, really. The CD, I think, is expendable, a pleasant trinket to peruse once all the other records have been played a million times; the DVD, however, is well worth putting on if you, like me, are fascinated by this idea of "humble intelligent beauty", equally un­bur­dened with MTV-style trappings and militant anti-commercial supercool behaviour. It also gives you one more excuse to whine and wonder about how in the world this kind of music — so catchy, so easily accessible, so fun, and so heart-rending at the same time — could ever lose out in the public conscience to the likes of Shakira or Beyoncé. Well, don't tell me, I do know the an­swer: it's pretty hard to have a nipple slip from under that suit and tie thing.

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