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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
Fever Pitch  

AIMEE MANN
Carling Academy Glasgow, July 15th 2005
by Nick Morgan

I still don’t think I’ve recovered, mentally or physically, from having my head wedged in a door at the Port Charlotte Hotel at the end of a heated discussion (with a distinguished Malt Maniac of all people) over the literary merits or otherwise of the erstwhile author Nick Hornby. Now let’s get my position straight. Having read the first 37 pages of Fever Pitch, and then never having turned another of any of his novels, I am uniquely positioned to judge his writing as flaccid, self-indulgent, white middle class twaddle. An unfortunate stain on the reputation of 21st Century British literature.

Oh yes – and I was mightily pissed-off when I lost my regular North London parking space outside the Home of Football at Highbury when Fever Pitch was being filmed (key message Mr Hornby – never fuck with someone’s parking). But I conceded – and at this point the pressure on my head somewhat eased – that Hornby’s 31 Songs is an inspired read, and in truth was the book that lead me to Aimee Mann – not enough to warrant forgiving Mr Hornby for his other sins, but maybe it’s a start. And certainly, as I recall, enough to diffuse a potentially nasty confrontation which ended happily in a musical discussion over a Caol Ila or three.
So Hornby is also responsible for us being in Glasgow to see the great camera shy Diva – as the photographer discovered when a strip search (it’s a Glasgow thing) resulted in all her equipment being confiscated (very pleasantly I should add) for the duration of the evening. It’s part of a European tour to promote the new ‘concept’ album The Forgotten Arm. Actually I’m not sure it’s a concept in the way that marketeers might understand it – no apparent functional benefit for example, but rather a collection of songs (a song cycle then) narrating the torture of a doomed relationship, foundering on despair and drug addiction. So doomed and so despairing that I’m surprised that it manages to go for twelve songs – I might have given up after about half a dozen, but as at least one other writer has said, so it goes. Aimee Mann
The previous two albums, Bachelor No 1 and Lost in Space were works of real lyrical and musical beauty, marked to a great extent by the guitar work of Michael Lockwood, as well, of course, as Ms Mann’s astonishing and quite unique voice. New concept, new album, new producer, new band, but unfortunately nothing as new and surprising – and simply as engaging – as some of the work on the previous two.
Not to say that this isn’t a good evening. Ms Mann is one cool performer; relaxed, charming and chatty. Nothing to suggest the ‘difficult’ reputation that she is supposed to have. She handled the good-natured Glasgow hecklers with aplomb, and won the hearts of the audience (well, those that she didn’t already have in her pocket) during the encore with a call for requests. All rehearsed I cynically thought, until she and the band embarked on a song that quite clearly neither they, nor I, for that matter, could remember. Brave stuff. We got most of the new album in the correct ‘concept’ order (apart from the nice ‘King of the Jailhouse’ which was the first encore) interlaced with a selection of older tunes, such as ‘Back to Zero’, ‘Invisible Ink’, ‘Susan’ and ‘4th July’.
Ms Mann’s voice lived up to all expectation, added to which she played acoustic and electric guitars, bass and piano. No lack of talent there then. Nor with her band who, though we didn’t catch the name of the brilliant drummer – ‘played like an old-fashioned jazz percussionist’ said the idle photographer, were I strongly suspect the core of the musicians on Forgotten Arm. And a nice set of lights too, which reminded me of the lettering on the cover of the old Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits album.
The problem was that as the evening wore on the one real weakness in Ms Mann’s armoury became apparent.
Most of the songs were one paced, played at the same tempo which was frankly verging on the tedious just before the main set ended. And it makes all the songs sound the same, which I know isn’t true, but then I’ve never listened to three of her albums back to back, and to be honest I’m beginning to wonder if I’d buy a fourth. So what I began to think was that you needed to be a real fan to like this stuff in such intense doses, and began to doubt if I was. Lucky though that 99% of the good-natured audience were. They had a ball, and we had a good time too. Just a bit disappointing, that’s all.
Anyway music lovers, it’s adieu from me, at least for a little while. I’m writing this from a room overlooking Oban Bay, and I’m about to start my annual fortnight’s adventure around the West Coast of Scotland. But not to worry – plenty of great gigs lined up for August, including our Festival Special. Happy sailing. Nick Morgan



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