In a week which, more or less, marks both her birthday and the 10th anniversary of her first – and so far only – tour of Australia, you could see Aimee Mann appearing in Wind Back Wednesday as a giant hint to her that a return is overdue.
As this Sydney show, hot on the heels on an almost as good Brisbane performance (yes, I saw her twice and only regret not making it to Melbourne), makes clear, she is just goddamn fabulous. That is all.
Enmore Theatre, September 4
Aimee Mann was wrong; we were right. And everyone is happy about that.
The dry-witted Virginian, long resident in irony-deficient Los Angeles, is at least a decade late in getting here. Kept away by some aerophobia and a suspicion that there couldn't be that many people here who would have found a way past radio/TV silence to discover her six solo albums.
But judging by the surprised delight on her face at the sustained passionate response in The Enmore (and for that matter a night earlier in Brisbane where some people near me were in tears during a simply moving Mr Harris) she’s got the message.
It seems there is room for sometimes stately pop music marrying Paul McCartney’s melodies, Elton John’s elegance and Elvis Costello’s sharp tongue with a voice which may be limited in range but not in warmth and depth of character.
The lean and lanky Mann, whose constant humour and ease confounded some expectations, came bearing no electric guitars or drumkit. Around her acoustic guitar and occasional electric bass (and amusingly the odd appearance of that most maligned of the woodwinds, the recorder) were the multiple keyboards and vocals of Jamie Edwards and Jebin Bruni.
While occasionally we felt the absence of drums’ extra propulsion, there was surprisingly little of the enveloping wash that a keyboard-heavy lineup might suggest.
Instead the songs, which touched on all corners of her career back to her mid ’80s hit Voices Carry, felt unburdened: from the flighty 2003 b-side Nightmare Girl and last year’s deceptively easygoing character tests, Freeway and 31 Today, to the resigned-to-its-fate Amateur and a slowed down solo deconstruction of Red Vines.
The evening’s, and for that matter her career’s, core was mid-way through the 100-minute show with a deadly double hit of two songs from the Magnolia soundtrack.
Wise Up, a song that haunts you with its deep ache and acuity, is personal in the sense that everyone is affected differently by it depending on our own vulnerabilities. Here it kept landing silent but lethal punches to the heart until something broke.
Then Save Me, with its half desperate/half bitter line “why don’t you save me, from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they can never love anyone”, swept up the pieces and posted them home.
Aimee Mann is very good. We were always right about that too.