Aimee Mann – New York – Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, NY – 2004-06-30

Aimee Mann
Where: New York – Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, NY.

When: 2004-06-30

With her laid-back manner, charming melodies, and mid-tempo songs, Aimee Mann is an ideal artist for a lazy evening show in the outdoors. Picnicking fans lounged on blankets while the sun slowly set over the Hudson behind them on Wednesday, June 30, at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Park. Ms. Mann felt the need to introduce herself early on (“My name’s Aimee Mann; I’m a singer/songwriter”), explaining, “I never know who comes to these outdoor things: maybe you were all just walking by or something.” The fans were mostly die-hards, though, cheering when the band would start playing older songs like “Stupid Thing” and other cuts from Ms. Mann’s less famous early albums.

Most of the show, however, focused on Ms. Mann’s more recent efforts, last year’s Lost in Space and 2000’s critically hailed Bachelor No. 2 (or, The Last Remains of the Dodo). These songs, even more so than the earlier work, get by mostly on the strength of Ms. Mann’s skill as a lyricist. The pop sensibility behind the tunes makes them solid, hummable, and inoffensive, but the tempos and intensity levels don’t vary too much from song to song. Live, Ms. Mann is basically a top-notch coffeehouse act who happens to be backed by a four-piece rock band.

Fortunately, Ms. Mann herself has a delightful, mellow-but-sarcastic stage presence. She laughed off her first Page 6 appearance (apparently she’d said mean things about “Ebony and Ivory” during a previous show), and introduced “Save Me” (her best song and hands-down one of the best pop lyrics of the last decade) by noting that “this song lost an Oscar to Phil Collins’s happy monkey love song,” a reference to one of the pudgy Englishman’s Disney soundtrack offerings. The music snob in me was won over instantly.

The next Aimee Mann album will reportedly be produced by Joe Henry, and while it’s a shame that it will likely lose the lush, layered brilliance that Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright) has brought to each of her previous albums, maybe the benefit will be to shake those lyrics free of a sounds that has gotten a little static over the years.