Concert Review: Aimee Mann / Jonathan Coulton @ The Egg, 07/24/2023

I went to the show cold without listening to any of Aimee Mann’s works or Googling her reviews.  I knew Voices Carry; heard Save Me on WEXT; and picked up on her bass contribution to Unkind from Bird Streets’ Lagoon (Album Review: “Lagoon,” by Bird Streets | Nippertown), but beyond that, I had a passing familiarity with her career and life (marriage to Michael Penn of No Myth, fame).  The Egg’s program dutifully noted Mann’s group, ‘Til Tuesday, her “modest hit” That’s Just What You Are from Melrose Place; the Academy Award-nominated, Save Me, from the film Magnolia; and other albums and facts.  All very nice, but it did not prepare me for the deeper dive into her talented band and songs.

Mann took the stage to a less-than-packed house and placed responsibility for the show’s reaction on the two hapless folks she could see from the stage.  She said it was the beginning of the tour, and mistakes would likely be made. Mann held lead vox and mostly handled the acoustic guitar duties on her walk through her life’s music.  She long ago traded electric and rock for acoustic and folk; we are richer for it. Though she did a few air jumps in her Converse kicks!  She did take Paul Bryan’s bass for a song and left him standing at his mic, hands at his side, angelic in his suit coat and tie.  He’s been her producer on an album or two, and I think he was well-versed in pivoting for the boss.  Bryan and electric guitar man Adam Tressle, who added an occasional slide and twang, tight harmonies; Jamie Edwards, a local talent who contributes keys and vocals to many artists, was on deck; and John Sands, the able stick and percussion section made up the rest of her outfit.  

Her warning to us that there might be mistakes was untrue.  If they were made, our brains had a lot to chew on with her lyrics while our ears dealt with the aural delivery of emotions.  It is hard to tell which was more choice: the harmonies or her idiosyncratic voice.  Sometimes she delivered straight alto melodies; sometimes, she took a bit of soar up the octave; sometimes, she played with her vocal cords to deliver a bit of a yodel/warble; and sometimes, there was an accent you could not place, but was not displeased in hearing. She’s indefinable, and her band was more than up for the challenge to keep up.   

Highlights of the evening were:

  • You Fall
  • Suicide is Murder
  • Burn It Out
  • You Never Loved Me
  • Rollercoaster
  • Patient Zero
  • The Moth
  • Freeway
  • Burn It Out
  • Lies of Summer
  • King of the Jailhouse

Never heard of Jonathan Coulton, but he was a refreshing special guest.  His interesting turns of phrases, life-observational verses, and sly (geek/nerd) delivery were entertaining.  You had to listen closely to catch his yen for a rich girlfriend as permitted by his wife; the worst kept plot secret of Star Trek’s Red Shirts (Sirsy’s I’m a Goner, anyone?); and other more sinister plots hatched by AI and a creepy house haunting doll that is actually you.  Lest you think he is no musician, he has pipes and plays his acoustic as you can only dream.  FYI:  Couton co-wrote Patient Zero, Good for Me, and Rollercoaster with Mann for 2017’s “Mental Illness” album.  Mann brought him up on stage, and he held his own with her band.   He was a software engineer in a previous career and won the Game Audio Network’s Song of the Year Award in 2007.  Those IT types are unpredictable, and if the machines take over, I want one on my side.  Jonathan – reach out if you come this way again (I saw you do the “call me” hand signal). I’d love to give you a proper interview.

My only disappointment is that there were empty seats and you didn’t get a chance to see this show.  There were times when the Hart Theater could not contain the energy of those six individuals and how they turned the rock/folk/Americana, sounds into that of a full orchestra that enveloped you in their craft, threatening to crack The Egg.  After the concert, I will admit to reading a small sample of the online articles/interviews and found that Mann has not been quiet in the years since she was hushed.  Her voice did indeed carry and snagged a few compatriots along the way.

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