Touring in support of her latest album, "Charmer," Aimee Mann returned to Milwaukee for an impressive performance at The Pabst Theater Sunday night.
"Charmer" was the main focus of Sunday night's set, and Mann and her four bandmates began the evening with three songs from the album: "Disappeared," "Gumby" and "Labrador."
These songs established the '80s new wave feel that is on display throughout the new release. Mann's voice sounded fantastic and when she wasn't singing, she was delighting the audience with anecdotes and observations.
Prior to Sunday night, Mann's most recent Milwaukee performance had been in June 2008, missing the debut of the Bronze Fonz by a few months. Mann detailed her "so bad it's good" appreciation of the statue.
"That is the worst Fonzie statue I've ever seen. It is so awesome," said Mann, citing the height of the statue along with the Fonz's teeth and the color of his pants as flaws. "Every town has its wrong statue and this one is your guys'. You should be so proud."
After Mann's band took a break to allow her to perform solo, one fan in attendance declared that Mann's music video for "Labrador" was an all-time best. Coyly, Mann replied, "I have to concur." She then explained that the premise for the video (a Gus Van Sant-esque shot-for-shot remake of the 'Til Tuesday "Voices Carry") wasn't her own, but that she was very happy with how it turned out.
Switching gears, Mann then performed her Academy Award-nominated song "Save Me" from "Magnolia." After the song one of her bandmates returned to the stage and started playing the opening notes from "Wise Up," which prompted an odd "ooooh" from an audience member. This caught Mann off-guard who acknowledged the noise by saying "that seems like a very strange response."
Even though Mann has a nearly 20-year old discography, Sunday's set consisted mainly of almost all of "Charmer," along with numerous selections from "The Forgotten Arm" and the "Magnolia" soundtrack. The last song of Mann's main set was "It's Not Safe," from her sophomore album "I'm With Stupid." Toward the end of the song, over a repeated musical riff, Mann declared that this was the final song of the night, which garnered some boos from a pocket of the audience.
"I also feel boo," replied Mann before thanking the audience and wrapping up the song. As Mann and her band left, The Pabst gave them a standing ovation and continued to cheer and applaud in the darkness.
Returning to the stage for an encore, Mann began by playing "Video," which had been requested via Twitter. Following the song, a fan yelled something nonsensical about Mann performing on New Year's Eve "with all the balloons," which confused Mann. Following "Video," Mann played another song from "The Forgotten Arm," "King of the Jailhouse." The final song of the evening was "Deathly," and just as she had done during "It's Not Safe," Mann thanked the audience for their support and for coming out to see her.
As the song wrapped up, Mann showed her wit by offering the following parting words: "Happy New Year ... with all the balloons."
Opening the show was Ted Leo, who began his set by making a "Gremlins" reference and won over the crowd with his easygoing demeanor. The highlight of Leo's set was "Timorous Me," which Leo had introduced as his "Stairway to Heaven."
During Mann's set, Leo returned to the stage to sing the duet "Living a Lie" from "Charmer." The friendship between the two performers was very evident, punctuated by Mann making fun of Leo at the end of her set, knowing that he would hear it backstage thanks to The Pabst's sound system.