MARC COHN AND AIMEE MANN, Deer Valley Amphitheater, Saturday

The St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series opened at the Deer Valley Amphitheater Saturday night.

Marc Cohn and Aimee Mann offered the audience some tasty musical morsels in separate dynamic sets.

While Mann's songs were more folksy ventings, Cohns were introspective with a touch of nostalgia.

Mann looked at ease with her acoustic guitar, backed by a no-nonsense band. Her set was a balance of old songs and works from her new album "@#%&*! Smilers."

Among the new songs were "The Great Beyond," "Little Tornado" and "31 Today." Older works included "Fourth of July," from her 1993 solo debut "Whatever" and a remake of the Three Dog Night's "One" and Elton John's "My Father's Gun."

Mann's melancholy work set the stage for Cohn's hopeful lyrics.

He took the stage and headed for his piano to play the gospel-inspired "Live Out the String."

From there, the man sang introspective tales such as "Listening to Levon," about a young boy ignoring his girlfriend because a song by the Band drummer Levon Helm was playing on the radio. Other songs that showcased Cohn's soulful voice and longing songwriting included "Girl of Mysterious Sorrow," "Rest for the Weary" and a new song, "Dance Back from the Grave," which he wrote about the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The voodoo blues of "29 Ways," featuring guitarist Shayne Fontaine's ripping leads, and the snapshot feel of "She Becomes Gold" were other highlights of the evening. As was the show capper and Cohn's trademark tune "Walking in Memphis."

Through it all, Cohn stepped to his piano or strapped on his acoustic guitar, but his band — Fontaine, drummer Joe Bonadio and bassist Jon Ossman — gave Cohn's song audio substance and moody rollercoasters.

Cohn's graceful demeanor emerged through little anecdotes he told between songs. And his voice moved from thoughtful and determined to dreamy and bluesy in just a few notes.

The Big Stars, Bright Nights series started off with a bang and Mann and Cohn set the mood for the rest of the shows throughout the summer.

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