Friday, September 28, 2012

Aimee Mann delivers rousing performance in San Juan Capistrano

Photos courtesy of Bob Steshetz

I've caught Aimee Mann in concert a number of times since the 1990s and being a big fan of her songcraft, I have always been impressed. But last night's performance by the Richmond, Virginia native on the first night of her fall 2012 tour proved to be the best show I've ever caught from the celebrated singer-songwriter.

Mann is touring in support of her fantastic new album Charmer, and kicked things off here in the O.C. with an 80-minute performance at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Backed by a terrific 4-man band (featuring multi-instrumentalist Jamie Edwards, as well as bassist-vocalist Paul Bryan, who also produced Charmer), the show featured more than half of the cuts from Charmer and enough classic material to thrill everybody in the near-capacity crowd.

When Mann came out on stage at 9:20 p.m., she acknowledged the heartfelt screams and applause of an obviously-delighted crowd: "Thank you so much. This is the first show of the tour...and the first show I've played with a full band in years."

And play they did. Melody is such an essential ingredient in Mann's approach that both folk-rock (say "Gumby" off Charmer) or sparse acoustic material ("Save Me," which she performed alone with her acoustic guitar, and the subsequent "Wise Up" where she was supported only by her guitar and a keyboardist) can address the darkest of topics and still rouse.

Mann is obviously comfortable performing stripped-down acoustic material, but many of the greatest moments on Thursday night came when she and her band rocked. Fans of her powerful, upbeat melodic rock got plenty of chance to groove. There was the textured Beatles-tinged approach of the duet "Living a Lie" where she traded lead vocals with Bryan (who ably handled James Mercer slot featured on Charmer), the '80s-flavored synthpop of "Crazytown" and joyful gloom of "Slip and Roll," the latter featuring some fantastic fret work courtesy of Edwards. "Jamie's over here doing eight things at once," Mann said before noting wryly:  "I have the leather jacket."

Speaking of tuneful delights, "Labrador," also off the new album, is obviously already a fan favorite based on the collective cheers when Mann announced that the song was coming next. Few shows fly by with the speed of this one.

The encore featured Mann taking over bass guitar duties on "King of the Jailhouse," with the artful harmonies of Bryan and Mann adding a welcome warmth to the song. Saving the best for last, Mann strapped back on her guitar and led the troupe through an epic version of "Deathly" that grew in power from its quient launch to its roaring finish seven minutes later.  

Opening was the Wisconsin band Field Report. Having just released their self-titled commercial debut a few weeks ago, the six-man ensemble performed an inspired style of dreamy Americana that draws natural comparisons with Band of Horses and The Wilderness of Manitoba. In an age where many newcomers grab the spotlight with bombast and hype, Field Report achieved that same sort of attention with well-crafted and sterling arrangements over the course of 40 fine minutes. Led by Chris Porterfield (pictured on left) the group was the rare opening act that really got fans listening and later earned the praises of Mann herself. From their strong opening ("Route 18") to the memorable closing song, the monumental "Fergus Falls," Field Report proved themselves more than ready on this night.

Visit the band's official Web site for more information.

Aimee Mann at The Coach House, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012

Main set: Disappeared / Gumby / Labrador / You Could Make a Killing / Lost In Space / Living a Lie / Charmer / Crazytown / Save Me / Wise Up / Slip and Roll / Soon Enough / That's Just What You Are / One / It's Not Safe
Encore: King of the Jailhouse / Deathly

1 comment:

newwavegeo said...

I couldn't agree more. Great pics too!