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The Both at Fine Line Music Cafe, 5/10/14

The Both at Fine Line Music Cafe, 5/10/14
Photo by Tony Nelson

The Both with Nick Diamonds
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Saturday, May 10, 2014

If Aimee Mann and Ted Leo are ever in need of new careers, the two could take up standup comedy. The duo of Mann on bass and Leo on guitar -- and their drummer, Paul Mayhall -- charmed their way into the the hearts of Minneapolis with their humor peppered with music from their brand of rock-hued pop songs. Aimee shared, "We've been known to be 30 minutes into a set and only have played one song."

See also:
Slideshow: The Both pack the Fine Line

The two accomplished performers have made names for themselves as solo artists, but together have a magic that is hard to duplicate. Not just in conversation, but musically they each brought their talents to create a clever, oft-emotional double threat. The two toured together in late 2012 and discovered a creative chemistry. Leo wrote a piece and asked Mann to play bass on it, which led into a collaboration that turned into an EP. When the songwriting came effortlessly, the project turned into a full album under the name the Both.

The Both at Fine Line Music Cafe, 5/10/14
The Both at Fine Line Music Cafe, 5/10/14
Photos by Tony Nelson

Mann's lilting vocals and Leo's gritty edge combined for a melodic set that featured all 11 Both tracks. The pair's banter revealed a connection is not confined to their music.
Aimee and Ted traded vocals on standout pieces from the new album, including the uptempo "The Gambler," "Volunteers of America," and "The Inevitable Shove."

Before leading into their fifth song of the night, Aimee shared a story about the phallic graffiti that graced the Fine Line's green room and some street graffiti they found in San Francisco on the "Four New Rules for the Pussy." Mann quipped, "The title of this next song is possibly the fifth rule," before she led into the bouncy "Pay For It." Not to be outdone in the dirty joke department, Cranberry juice was Ted Leo's theme for the evening, sharing a story on how he was at the grocery store buying a jug of it and having the cashier concerned about him having a UTI.

The two slowed it down a bit by throwing in a few somber pieces beginning with the first song they wrote together "You Can't Help Me Now" before Mann's Magnolia soundtrack hit "Save Me." Whenever Mann performs her Academy Award-nominated song, things happen. The world shifted and resettled into a new space. The song is delicate and heartbreaking, yet contains hope. Before Ted shared his new, unreleased "Lonsdale Avenue," Aimee warned, "Believe it or not, Ted's song is even more depressing than mine." The duo ruminated about its dark tendencies before harmonizing on the Both lullaby "Hummingbird."

 

The give-and-take eventually led to their newest single "Milwaukee," written after the city and included a line about the creepy "Fonz" statue that stands in the town. How it was so significant to include in the song came from Aimee and Ted trying to take a picture with the statue, but no matter how many times they tried, the photo looked awful. It turns out it wasn't due to Mann or Leo, it was because of the Fonz.

The Both at Fine Line Music Cafe, 5/10/14
Photo by Tony Nelson

Since the band is only one album old, they had to add some extra tracks, so by the end of the evening they threw in another of Leo's song, "Bottled in Cork," and Mann's "Goodbye Caroline."

You don't often see a lead singer on bass, but Aimee played the role well. She came back for the encore, stared at Ted uncomfortably and asked, "Do you want me to play a bass solo? No one ever wants that," before she headed into "Voices Carry," a piece she wrote for her old band 'Til Tuesday and one she said she liked playing since Ted had to sing the falsetto. For a song Mann has had in her arsenal 29 years, it sounded fresh in their hands. Leo expertly laid out the discordant guitar part, and their voices did carry. 

Critic's bias: I love Aimee and Ted's music individually, but together they will kill you with their charisma.

The crowd: An older group looking for some classic pop tunes. The man in front of me clearly wasn't expecting them to unearth "Voices Carry" as they opened with the driving riffs. He mouthed the word "Wow" and got to his feet when he had been sitting the whole night.

Random notebook dump: Has anyone ever noted how shockingly similar Ted Leo's voice is to Weird Al Yankovic's?

Setlist
The Gambler
Volunteers of America
No Sir
The Inevitable Shove
Pay For It
Bedtime Stories
You Can't Help Me Now
Save Me (Aimee Mann cover)
Lonsdale Avenue (Ted Leo cover)
Hummingbird
Milwaukee
The Prisoner
Bottled in Cork (Ted Leo cover)
Goodbye Caroline (Aimee Mann cover)

Encore
Voices Carry ('Til Tuesday cover)
Honesty Is No Excuse (Thin Lizzy cover)

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