“It can’t be all cheer and happiness, there has to be some suicidal depression and family hatred and alcoholism,” Aimee Mann told the crowd at Bimbo’s Sunday night at the scene of her Third Annual Christmas show. She then launched into her “hit” of sullen melancholy, “Save Me.”
Depression, alcoholism and hatred are what you might expect from Aimee Mann, holiday cheer and jovial whimsy, not so much. But apparently she’s been doing these Christmastime variety shows all over the place and it’s a charming way to espy another side of the subdued singer songwriter.
And although she calls the songs cheesy, Mann’s rendition of “Sleigh Ride” is really pretty. “Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, Let’s go” she sings – but can’t help but interrupt herself to interject “Its so dumb already!”
Breaking up the reluctant corn-ball mush are some special appearances by comics Patton Oswalt and Morgan Murphy and musicians Nellie McKay and Grant Lee Phillips who keeps popping up in degrading Christmas themed costumes.
Phillips and Mann do a pretty snappy "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, which is also on Mann’s 2006 Christmas Album, One More Drifter in the Snow, (So, I hear, is a great cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”)
Oswalt (the voice of Remy the rat from Ratatouille) does some amusing stand up about Barack Obama (in case we thought there was none to be had) and Morgan Murphy, (a comedienne and comedy writer, formerly for Jimmy Kimmel) stumbles around as a very smashed and very pregnant Hanukah fairy, (go figure) in a bizarre bit of off-kilter tokenism.
But funniest of all are the home movie segments in which video is projected of Mann as a Scroogey anti-self, contradicting her well known aversion to music commercialism and the Vulcan death grip of record label execs.
Here, she’s ordering her musicians to work on Christmas eve, spitting a ‘Bah fucking humbug’ to the pleas from a father of a crippled son. John Krasinski, John C. Reilly and Michael Cera pop up to sprinkle their stardom into this goofy ‘Mickey and Judy put on a show’ indie rock Christmas Carol home movie mid-concert treat.
Aimee Mann’s Third annual Christmas Show, out-there though it is, is pretty darn true to an artist whose latest album is called “@#%&*! Smilers” – a title, with its key-stroke bleep compromise, that keeps one eye on marketing know-how and still one foot rooted in misanthropy.
For those of you who missed the sold out one night only Bimbo's show, here's a truly click-worthy, you-tubular celebrity-ladden mock pre-show