LENGTH: 424 words
HEADLINE: Mann smoothly delivers tales of sorrow at Gypsy Tea Room Blue velvet
BYLINE: Thor Christensen
Aimee Mann apologized to the near-capacity crowd at the Gypsy Tea Room
Friday night for not playing Dallas in roughly "4,000 years." In truth, it's
only been since the '80s, but in terms of her career growth, it really does
seem like eons.
Back in the Reagan years, Ms. Mann fronted 'Til Tuesday, a Boston new-wave
band more notable for its prodigious use of Aqua Net than for its
synth-laden music. But since going solo in the early '90s and moving to Los
Angeles, she's blossomed into one of rock's deepest songwriters.
Onstage, she blended subtle hooks and stories of the id into songs that
one part Cole Porter, two parts Psychology Today. Dressed shabby-chic in a
vest and tie, she looked like a guitar-toting Annie Hall, although her tales
of arrested development were far darker than the plot of most Woody Allen
During "That's Just What You Are" a minor hit from the
soundtrack she unveiled the archetypal Aimee Mann story a woman figuring
out how emotionally bankrupt her lover is. Yet some of the show's most
powerful songs had even less sense of resolution than that tune. Like the
title of her new album, Lost in Space, Ms. Mann's latest characters floated
through the stories in a haze of psychosis, drugs and denial.
Grim stuff indeed. But her melodies were so gorgeous and her songs so
crafted that the show never dragged nor did her velvety singing, despite
her complaint about the ballroom's excessively hot, smoky conditions. (She
applauded Dallas' upcoming smoking ban, but mistakenly assumed it applied to
bars as well as restaurants.)
Ms. Mann got expert backing from keyboardist Jebin Bruni, who fleshed
the tunes with classical flourishes and whimsical roller-rink organ, and new
guitarist Julian Coryell, a master of the prickly blues-rock solo. Despite
her penchant for somber ballads and moody stage lighting, Ms. Mann wasn't
afraid to strap on an electric guitar and rock away the gloom now and again.
Nor did she take herself too seriously. She badgered fans to clap along
"Invisible Ink," transforming the song from a baroque-pop suite into a
tongue-in-cheek arena-rock moment.
And she spoke in mock horror about the painting of her likeness that's
the Tea Room's outdoor brick wall an artwork that makes her look like a
collagen- injected Maxim model.
"I only wish my lips were that extra full and luscious," she
said. "I look
like a cross between Britney Spears and Taylor Dayne, which is not really a