Aimee Mann engages fans in Lowell

A review of Aimee Mann at the Lowell Summer Music Series on July 18, 2009

, Staff

Eclectic singer-songwriter Aimee Mann hit the Lowell Summer Music Series on Saturday and invited the crowd at Boarding House Park to participate in a casual yet delightfully fun evening of her low-key but profound music.

What began as an hot summer day transformed into a tranquil, sultry evening of easy listening speckled with witty commentary by Mann. The overall jovial crowd, which initially seemed to consist more of locals than die-hard Mann fans, filtered into the park slowly, bringing along picnic dinners and chess sets in hopes of fully enjoying a divine evening of music and good company. And they certainly got what they wished for.
At exactly 8:30, an effortlessly cool Aimee Mann galloped onto the stage and announced she would be doing a partial-request show in which fans could request any of her ninety-plus songs by scribbling them down on a clipboard. Mann, who donned unfussy blue jeans and a blazer, joked “don’t steal my clipboard!” before proclaiming that there was nothing she would have rather done on such a beautiful summer night than play some music.

The concert (which was co-sponsored by BMS) accordingly followed suit as a casual, almost experimental jam session of old and new in which the near-capacity crowd had the privilege of participating. Mann was accompanied onstage by two incredibly talented and versatile musicians who spent the entirety of the show jumping from instrument to instrument in order to compliment each song perfectly and adapt to requests.
The main set began with “The Moth,” an artful, folksy song that rang throughout the small park and saturated the air with the sweet sounds of slide guitar and Mann’s smooth vocals. Ironically enough, with the song “Momentum,” which included a saloon-type piano sound, the crowd’s zeal seemed to pick up and fans began to cry out their love for Mann. She even engaged one rather boisterous fan in a slightly hysterical repartee, declaring “it’s quiet when you don’t scream between songs!” She continued with such droll commentary, and won over the locals by explaining that she used to play in the area “way back in the day.”

In “Save Me,” which the crowd recognized at the first stroke of her guitar, Mann begged a mystery man to be her superhero in hopes of saving her “from the rest of the freaks.” She later played the equally cynical “You’re With Stupid Now” at the request of a close friend. However, in spite of her often melancholy lyrics, Mann seemingly found it easy to remain composed and even cheery on stage.

She soon moved to the request portion of the show, sustaining her cool demeanor along the way, and agreed to tackle even the songs she hadn’t played in years. She began with a playful reprise of “Happy Birthday” for one devoted fan, and before boldly playing “High on a Sunday 51” for the first time in a long time, warning the crowd “there’s got to be a couple of train wrecks, otherwise it wouldn’t be a true request show.”

An incredibly agreeable performer, Mann continued straight down the two page request list, which even included a few Christmas tunes, for the remainder of the evening, finishing each song with a genuine and enthusiastic “Thank you!” Among the fan requests were "Jimmy Hoffa Jokes", "Jacob Marley’s Chain", "Wise Up", "Freeway",and "Today’s The Day". Not only did she maintain the crowd’s energy throughout the show, but the buzzing seemed to build during her three-song encore, during which she utilized the recorder, an instrument she announced she had only been playing for one week.

The setting was truly magical; a perfect summer evening in the park. From Mann’s casual and participatory performance to her smooth, calming voice, the crowd left in high spirits. The concert didn’t quite feel like a performance as much as a communal celebration of good music and good vibes, and the crowd wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Mann’s opener, Nicole Adkins, set the stage for the evening with a mellow but beautiful sound, experimenting with both old and new songs that ranged in tone from playful to heartfelt.

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