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Aimee Mann at Orpheum
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Aimee Mann
June 9th, 2005
The Orpheum Theatre, Boston MA

By Jessamyn Cuneo

The Orpheum theatre was close to packed last night, with the air hanging heavily around Aimee Mann and her band. At one point, the singer/songwriter/guitarist felt inclined to comment on the lack of air conditioning. She apologized to the crowd for her somewhat lethargic performance, insisting that it was due to being too tired, too hot and too high. The crowd tittered. "I'm kidding, I'm not that high," Aimee insisted, with a wry smile.
She looked at the guitarist and then out at the crowd. "I'm such a jerk," she said.

We all sat and wondered how much of this was true. Musicians are almost constantly complaining about being tired, which makes sense, since playing music is a task that requires much exertion. And the Orpheum was really hot and stuffy. I suddenly realized that the fact that there are no further events planned there until October is probably partially due to the putrid smell of body odor in the humid, 153-year-old arena of tiny seats. The place smells like an aged Salvation Army couch in a college dorm. Flies buzzed distractingly around under the lights, and the keyboardist had to duck when an unexpected shower, from some unidentified leak in the roof of the stage, dribbled onto his head at one point. Yup, I guess it's about time they closed up shop for the season.

But was Aimee high? And which type of high was she referring to? No one could really tell, since her performance was pretty static, aside from a few moments at the end of a couple songs when she leaned forward, exaggerated her strumming, bowed her blonde head and bent her knees up and down a few times. It wasn't exactly rock-and-roll head-banging, but it did help boost the energy momentarily.

Many of the songs Aimee played were from her new album, The Forgotten Arm, which was written to tell a story of a couple, the man being a vet who boxes and has a drug addiction. This album is perfect to slip into your CD player while driving along the interstate, window down, wind tossing your hair back. Many of the songs are repetitive, but overall, they are chill, melancholy tracks that won't rub you either way-perfect for a long ride alone in a car. The songs that stood out were "Save Me," off the Magnolia soundtrack, as well as "Voices Carry," a hugely popular song in the late 80s/early 90's, which still gets radio play. "When this song came out, it was competing with 'Walking on Sunshine,'" Aimee said before she began. She went on to say that now she hears it on commercials on TV and it burns her up every time, because why not "Voices Carry" for a commercial? "Why not Verizon?" she asked, grinning, and then launched into the song.

Each time she played a song from the new album, she would introduce it by setting the scene and telling us what the couple was up to. Then, most of the story was lost because it was difficult to understand her lyrics. Aimee switched from playing the electric bass, to the acoustic, as well as electric, guitar, and even played piano for one song, which was all quite impressive. She introduced her borrowed guitarist, Tony Shanahan from Patti Smith's band, and said that the only two people Patti said she would allow to borrow him were herself, and Yoko Ono.

Aimee's personality made up for the lesser points of the evening. She kept it real with the audience, talking to us more than your average performer. A former Berklee graduate, she began the concert with the modest confession of her amazement at seeing her name up on the Orpheum sign. "I mean, I saw Elvis Costello here!" she exclaimed with wide eyes. At the end of the concert, she began taking requests, and one guy's voice rang out clearly; "Free Bird!" This spawned instantaneous laughter and a funny Aimee Mann-version, in which she sang, "oh no, you can't change a bird," for the chorus. Her humor, combined with her laid-back attitude, were the only things keeping it slightly cooler at the Orpheum.

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