Aimee Mann at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Saturday 19 June 2004
At the 9:30 club on Saturday night, singer Aimee Mann announced that she had recently taken up boxing. That may be an unusual sport for someone as scrawny and non-intimidating as Mann (who joked about a posting on the Internet that she is "not a very robust specimen"), but she packs a more powerful punch in two lines than most songwriters can in an entire tune. "You look like the perfect fit/for a girl in need of a tourniquet," began "Save Me," from the film "Magnolia" -- as she said, the song that "lost an Oscar."
Many of Mann's compositions deal with such dark subject matter, comparing a new flirtation to a moth drawn to its death in a flame ("The Moth") or bemoaning a troubled friendship ("Deathly"). Despite their often-gloomy sentiments, her songs are rarely dirges, and on tracks from each of her four solo albums, she channeled the desperation of her lyrics into musical energy, augmented by her four-piece band.
Indeed, Mann's humor charmed the crowd. Her encore started with "The Other End (of the Telescope)," co-written with Elvis Costello, but she stopped several times because of forgotten lyrics. "I could just go on -- that would be the professional thing to do," she said, laughing. "But it would bug me all night!" Her ever-supportive fans prompted her at each fumble, and she chose a less complicated route for her next song, a mellow version of "Voices Carry," the biggest hit for 'Til Tuesday, the band she fronted in the '80s. With Mann's songcraft as a solid foundation, her performance and endearing stage presence held the audience at full attention all night.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 21 June 2004