The christening of the new Starbucks salon in New York’s Soho district marked the beginning of an endeavor uniting the “traditional coffeehouse” with emerging talent (or so the coffee-shills said). And although the schedule for the upcoming month includes an array of hip-hop, Latin, jazz, theatre performances and even psychic readings, the opening VIP event featured a concert by Aimee Mann (who, arguably, “emerged” a long time ago.)
Standing on a raised stage and framed by a shiny grand piano, Mann was undoubtedly chosen for her artistry as a singer-songwriter, a genre traditionally nurtured in coffeehouses. Although she played songs from across her catalog, she included enough Magnolia hits to lend an appropriate flair to the display of “hip” that seemed to categorize the evening.
“Goodbye Caroline,” from her latest, The Forgotten Arm, was near the top of her set, and set the tone for the show. She delivered each tune without affect—letting each speak for itself—with a singular focus that seemed to transcend the caffeinated buzz created by the crowd. Moving to the bongos for “You’re with Stupid” added texture to the rhythm’s simplicity. The Magnolia fare in the show: “Save Me,” “Wise up” (which she substituted on the spot for two slightly lesser known songs originally listed), “One” (the Three Dog Night cover that’s become her own) and final song “Deathly” were straightforward without being tired. She freshened her tunes by adding new instrumental textures, most notably through a couple honky tonk piano interludes during the instrumental breaks and through fresh chord voicings on “One.”
Through this posh, temporary Greene St. location, Starbucks hopes to “bring together diverse groups of artists to provoke thought and discussion…in a traditional coffeehouse setting.” At nearly $5 for a reinvented coffee beverage, clearly Starbucks has become its own tradition, and one that may continue to reshape emerging artists with the same monumental impact it’s had on America’s favorite cup of Joe.
Starbucks Salon is at 76 Greene Street in Manhattan and will run through Sunday, Sept. 17, with two to three headline performances each day. All performances are free and open to the public. Complete performance schedule available at StarbucksSalon.com.