Aimee Mann at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Sunday the weather in San Francisco shifted from San Francisco Autumn back to, well, San Francisco Summer: cool, windy, and clear; sunshine that imparts far less warmth than you might imagine. Richard and I ventured to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival at Golden Gate Park Sunday afternoon. Aimee Mann was playing the Arrow Stage and I’d managed to miss every other opportunity I’ve had to see her play live.

Speedway Meadow was far more crowded than I imagined and I think Richard was amused by my remaining provincialism. Somehow we managed to make our way through the crowd and find a spot stage left. We put our blanket down, enjoyed a sandwich, and tried to avoid being trampled while we waited for Aimee to come on.

Aimee Mann (flickr)

I’ve heard several live recordings of Aimee and she was just as warm and engaging Sunday as she is on those recordings. She opened saying, “Holy shit! There’re way more people here than I expected! This is awesome!” and interspersed generous helpings of “oh, thanks” and “you guys are so great” between songs. It may be an act but it works for me. On some level I’m able to forget the crowds, the pushing, the pot, the sorority girls behind me (“Oh my god guys! She drank my fifth of vodka! MY FIFTH!” “Damn! No!” “Yeah!”) and imagine that Aimee and I are hanging out and she’s just picking and playing a few songs, just for me.

The set was “Magnolia” heavy. I’m not sure if that’s because her more recent work on “@#%&*! Smilers” is even less “bluegrass” or if she’s playing what she thinks people know and want to hear. The set list went something like this:

  • The Moth
  • Nightmare Girl
  • Momentum
  • Build That Wall
  • Par for the Course
  • Amateur
  • This is How It Goes
  • Wise Up
  • Save Me
  • You Could Make a Killing
  • Little Bombs
  • Thirty One Today
  • Freeway

I thought it was interesting that she introduced the last two song as “from my most recent album, Smilers,” as opposed to calling it “Fucking Smilers”. Everyone got a good laugh, too, when she introduced “Save Me” by saying, “this is the song that lost an Oscar; to Phil Collins.”

I had hoped to stick around and see Neko Case and Emmylou Harris, but after walking over to the Star Stage, I decided it wasn’t worth dealing with the crowd. Another time. I’m not sure that I love the free festival musical experience, but I’m glad I finally got to see Aimee live.

date:2009-10-05 21:28:34
category:my life
tags:aimee mann, concert, music, setlist

Tori Amos at The Paramount, Oakland

Monday I saw Tori Amos at The Paramount, Oakland (setlist). This was the third time I saw her in concert. The first two times were both on her Choirgirl Hotel tour, in 1998.

In 1998 I was that guy, one of the dozen or two that spent Halloween afternoon in the drizzle outside Elliot Hall of Music at Purdue for almost six hours, waiting for her bus to arrive so I could participate in the meet and greet. I clutched my Silent All These Years single — a second one, actually, purchased just for the occasion — and listened to the more wizened Tori-philes describe their first, sixth, tenth, twentieth concerts. I was a “virgin” and they delighted in explaining just how amazing my first time would be. Tori arrived, said hello, shock hands with people and gave hugs. She said something like, “my, aren’t you a tall one,” and gamely signed my single.

The show at Elliot was indeed amazing. As was the second show I saw her in, at Dayton, Ohio. Monday she did not disappoint.

At The Paramount she covered the breadth of her catalog, from Precious Things and Tear in Your Hand from Little Earthquakes, to the material from her most recent release, Abnormally Attracted To Sin. She even played Siren, a song she contributed to the soundtrack for Great Expectations (1998). From the first song to the end of the second encore the audience was held rapt, almost worshipful. Seeing Tori perform I was reminded how her music seems to pour out of her. It appears to be an extension of her mood, her presence on stage, drawing the audience in.

It’s hard not to compare Monday with my previous experiences seeing Tori. The show was similar to the previous shows in some ways; she played what I think of as the “live arrangement” of Precious Things, there was a bit of improv and she played a cover song (in this case she covered Baby One More Time by Britney Spears). The biggest difference this time was the audience’s demeanor. The first two times I saw her perform the audience was on their feet from beginning to end, cheering and dancing. Monday night The Paramount was almost church-like. People swayed a bit, mouthed the words and shouted “We love you Tori” at irregular intervals, but for the most part remained seated, listening attentively.

Sitting there in the dark, I also found myself comparing where I’m at in life now and where I was the first time. Ten years have past and have brought a lot of change in my life. Five jobs, two major relationships, a dozen addresses, and a cross-country move. I sat there in the dark of the theater Monday contemplating where I was ten years ago, five years ago. And I found myself grateful that I’ve had this music to accompany me and to grow with me.

date:2009-07-19 20:28:48
category:my life
tags:calidfornia, concert, east bay, music, oakland, paramount, tori amos