Live Thoughts: Aimee Mann at Dakota Jazz Club
Aimee Mann is certainly one of most charming and literate artists of the past few decades. From her new wave work with ‘Til Tuesday to her solo work through the 90s and up into the present, she’s crafted a catalog of smart power pop that’s weighty enough to endure deeper listening but accessible enough to be immediately enjoyable.
Mostly playing acoustic guitar and solidly backed by a bassist and pianist, Mann covered a large swath of her career’s work – leading with “Red Flag Diver” from her current release, she played “Red Vines” and “The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist” (which was co-written with Elvis Costello) from her Bachelor #2 album, “4th of July” from Whatever and “One is the Loneliest Number” and “Save Me” from the Magnolia soundtrack. Her whole set was solid, featuring her laconic, beautiful singing voice and cerebral songwriting.
Mann really shined, though, when she strapped on her bass was backing or being backed by Ted Leo, a punk rock blaster who dialed back his usual uncontainable energy for the evening to highlight his singer/songwriter chops. Leo, in fact, seemed ill at ease during his opening set – jokes fell flat and stories rambled on a beat too long – but it was compelling to see his usually over-the-top songs performed stripped down to their basic frames. Leo, undeniably, is a bad ass guitarist and his music sounded great filling the intimate space at the Dakota.
When it was Mann and Leo together, though, the show locked in to a deeper groove. Punctuated by amusing anecdotes, the duo performed a handful of songs together during each of their sets. Notably, they announced that they’re playing and writing as a team – naming their project “The Both” – and featuring a new song called “Milwaukee” that mentions the quirky statue of The Fonz along the Milwaukee Riverwalk.
It’s clear Mann and Leo are besties – they wisecrack at and tease each other, finish each other’s sentences, and it’s exciting to think of what they’ll accomplish as a team.
Writer / co-founder