Tuesday, 5 February 2013

celtic connections: aimee mann, amelia curran, ted leo @ O2 abc, glasgow

Despite having been on the road with Aimee Mann for 3 months already, a solo Ted Leo finds himself short-changed tonight, relegated from chief tour support to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it opening slot. With what little time he has, however, Leo makes his mark: the Glasgow-inspired Bottle of Buckie makes an inevitable appearance; Mann is invited onstage to unveil the fruits of a recent collaboration; while a request for Timorous Me (from early Pharmacists record The Tyranny of Distance) is squared at the end. All-too-quickly he’s gone, but not forgotten.

Leo and Mann’s closeness could have left tonight’s inbetweener seeming like a third wheel. But Amelia Curran proves worthy of her marquee-placing, playing a solo set largely drawn from latest LP Spectators. The spirit of sixties folk storytellers inhabits her work, with lyrics balancing abstractions and blunt emotion. While clich├ęs blunder in on occasion, highlights like San Andreas Fault radiate a disarming timelessness.

In an early episode of Carrie Brownstein’s cult comedy Portlandia, Aimee Mann guest-starred as herself, her ‘character’ forced to moonlight as a cleaner due to dwindling income from music. Thirty years in the industry and an ever-loyal fan-base draw a definite partition between sketch and reality, and tonight decisively demonstrates the workmanlike professionalism that continues to win Mann new admirers. 2012’s Charmer features heavily in the setlist, with the likes of Labrador and Gumby making a case for it being her strongest collection in years.

But, as she herself correctly predicts, it’s the older tracks that provoke the strongest crowd response: Magnolia cuts Save Me and Wise Up are paired and poignant; It’s Not Safe closes out the main set splendidly; and 4th of July sneaks into the encore to tug heartstrings. With pearls like these at her disposal, it seems unlikely Mann will be scrubbing hobs anytime soon.

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