Saturday, December 10, 2011

Aimee Mann Christmas show, December 10 at the Wiltern

Aimee Mann does an annual Christmas show, and I remember seeing listings for it and noticed she always got impressive talent to perform at it but I knew I probably couldn't get into Largo to see it anyway.  And I didn’t care as much anyway at the time -- I’ve always been a tangential Aimee Mann fan but Carla holds her in a high, high regard.  I got tickets for us as an early Christmas gift (a bit non-festive since I bought them in October) and boned up on the acts that were going to be there.  I got a few Mann albums and cursed myself for not getting them in the ‘90s when they could have made a real difference. I assumed the show would be something like the KROQ (kinda-)Christmas shows, with the acts playing their standard sets with maybe a few Christmas songs for novelty and some kind of holiday-type flair, maybe some wreaths and a Christmas tree. The act I really wanted to see was Michael Penn, Mann’s husband, who I’ve been a fan of since 1990 and March (one of my most-obsessed-over albums from high school), and though we probably live in adjacent zip codes and for as many shows as he’s done at Largo (when I even met him in line for the restroom), I’d never seen him perform.  I thought this was going to be the big chance.  Then they added Nellie McKay a few weeks before the show and I went nuts.  Old, recent, and new musical obsessions, all in one place.  Turns out it wasn’t at all a regular show that just happened to be at Christmas-time, it was an actual Christmas show that was performed by some amazing talents.  Mann of course was the host, on stage most of the time, speaking to the crowd for an introduction and being part of some between-act skits that were stiff but at least self-aware enough to play off the fact that they were so dry.  Mann's charm comes through her music.  There were a few comedians that performed, as well as Paul F. Tompkins, my favorite L.A. comedian, who might have taken the spotlight from Mann since he was on stage so much, but it was all part of the act and she was probably relieved that someone else could take over the stage banter.  All funny, though.  Penn did one song, not his own, but mostly he was in the service to the backing band and Mann.  Predictably, McKay could have stolen the show but she’s mature enough to share the stage when she has to.  The Wiltern is a lot bigger place than she usually plays and it’s a shame she didn’t get her own spotlight since she could have won that whole place over easily.  As it was, she performed with Mann and told a few jokes that were probably a bit off-color for Christmas, but we’re all adults and it was, as always, a charming performance.  Mann did perform her own minimally-Christmas set in the middle, a scant few songs but a few new numbers.  Luckily the performance was more melancholy and comforting than depressing -- it could just be int he way you take Mann's music.  Maybe that was the point of the show, that Christmas is depressing enough but it's unavoidable so you might as well make the most of it.   Looking back, I don’t mind that we didn’t get a standard set from the acts we were there to see -- that they did a Christmas thing was unique and special.  There will be other times to see them doing whole sets of their own material, though it probably won’t involve awkward comedy.

“Linus and Lucy (Peanuts Theme)”
“Christmastime Is Here”
“Baby It's Cold Outside”
“Winter Wonderland”
“I'll Be Home For Christmas”
“What Are You Doing New Year's Eve”
“This Is The Life”
“Clean Up For Christmas”
“Save Me”
“Calling On Mary”
“Mr. Grinch”
“My First, My Last, My Everything” (Barry White cover)
“The Christmas Song”