Aimee Mann at ABC, 29/10/11

Over a three-decade career Aimee Mann has built an impressive reputation as the songwriter of choice for movie musical directors who want clear voiced melancholia; making records that span everything from country-pop to new wave.

From her rise to fame as the singing bassist in eighties alt rockers Til Tuesday to appearing on the soundtrack to everything from Magnolia to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s worn many outfits across her career but her latest record 2017’s Mental Illness is the late career classic she has always threatened to deliver; a heart-breaking personal collection and stripped back to simple folky arrangements that let her honesty and wit shine through.

 

Tonight she delivers a set that draws on both her latest record and the pick of her back catalogue.

Glasgow is the last show of the tour and Mann is on fine form, joking with the audience and opening up about the stories that inspired her new record.

The brilliant ‘Patient Zero’ is a song about Hollywood and disappointment, inspired by a meeting with Andrew Garfield, while ‘Goose Snowcone’ is a ballad about loneliness that gains a new comic sensibility when you realise that it’s also about cheering yourself up by looking at cat pictures on the internet.

They’re exactly the type of songs that make Mental Illness such a strong record with Mann perfectly nailing her role as an Elliot Smith type figure; honest, funny, likeable and capable of delivering both lyrics and arrangements that will make you cry.

Starting the show solo, she’s a big enough personality to own the stage on her own but it’s when she’s joined by Mental Illness collaborator Jonathan Coulter – who possesses a fingerpicking guitar style Mann describes as John Denver without the edge – and her crack band, that the show takes off.

Coulton joins on harmonies for ‘Rollercoasters’ and the band do a great job of filling out Mann’s laurel canyon sound, while ‘Save Me’ is still a match for the best ballads of the nineties, but it’s her signature track ‘Wise Up’ which gets the biggest cheers.

Returning for an encore Mann treats the crowd to her heart-breaking cover of Harry Nilsson’s ‘One’ and a final strummed Carole King-esque rendition of ‘Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear’.

It’s a perfect autumnal evening show and a tribute to an artist who’s making music that’s as good as ever.

 

Words: Max Sefton

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