Dec 17, 2010

Liz Phair - 9:30 Club

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

LIZ PHAIR

December 17, 2010

Washington, DC

Liz Phair started out nearly 2 decades ago as a simple indie rock girl, her lyrical content always contained witty stories intertwined with extreme sexual overtone...it's what made Liz Phair a fan Phavorite amongst the indie rock underground, I mean the song "Flower" has Liz declaring she wants to be a "Blow Job Queen!"

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Provocative lyrics wrapped in the context of lo-fi indie rock that occasionally verged on "singer/songwriter" material...that was what Liz Phair started out as & her first 2 records; "Exile in Guyville" & "Whip Smart" proved her a worthy opponent in the world of indie/alternative music, but when Liz's 3rd record, "White Chocolate Space Egg" came out it started to change a bit.

During the era of Liz's 3rd record she began to grow up as both a songwriter & a person....she started to change her lyrical approach just a bit, her pop side was not fully realized but started to show & instead of going in a mainstream direction Liz made adult contemporary indie rock that had a more "grown-up" approach to it...in all honesty, if you ever hear the demo's for the "White Chocolate Space Egg" sessions you will realize pretty damn fast that the direction of that record, sound wise, was changed drastically by the producer & the record label & it's interesting to note that the original version of the songs on "W.C.S.E." were more "rock" than what was eventually released!

"Liz Phair", the self titled record which contained her most pop-driven tunes yet, thanks in part to Matrix, made Liz's music uber accessible, pop radio played the crap out of "Why Can't I?" & "Extraordinary" was used in countless movie soundtracks...this is the record that the old school Liz phans would call her "sell out" point, but in all honesty, this is probably where she started to make a true dent in the music business, her name became a staple in the pop charts & most would say that if Liz Phair didn't create a commercial friendly record that sold well then she would have gone by the waste side like The Lemonheads, The Breeders, Sonic Youth & every other indie rock band that went as far as they could go in a genre that doesn't make the same $$ as the pop world.

Liz Phair continued on a pop-rock kick when she released "Somebody's Miracle" which didn't chart as well as her self titled record but her tour for that record sold well & Liz continued to play shows that mixed the pop style with the indie style.

The music business underwent a massive overhaul, bands were dropped faster than a hooker with an STD test result & lucky for Liz she had a fan in Dave Matthews because when Dave started his own label he decided to pick up the recently dropped Liz from her label... Liz & Mr. Matthews re-released "Exile In Guyville" for it's anniversary & the record contained bonus cuts as well as a limited edition DVD that told the story of the record.

Flash forward to 2010, Liz is basically an independent artist, she had no new music on the shelves, her official web site was pretty much dormant, then out of nowhere she released a full length record as an internet download...the record was later released in a physical version entitled "Funstyle" & the physical copy included a bonus disc of her original demo "Girlysounds" which was recorded on a 4-track by Liz & it shows her early work & what got her signed to a major label.

Now that you know a brief history of Liz Phair, the review should be simple to follow....Liz played the last show of her short 2010 tour at the 9:30 Club in DC & when doors opened at 8 PM there was probably 40 people tops in the club...this trend followed till close to 9:30 (no pun intended) when the crowd started to filter in & the once empty floor was filled totally in for Liz.

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Local act US Royalty opened the show & I'll admit that for a local band they impressed me...they mixed British Rock from the 70's with 80's alternative...each song was different from the last & their 2nd to last song was the one that made me go, "Wow!" because they put everything they had into it & played the hell out of that song!

If you were to look upon the balcony on stage right you could also see a jacket wearing Liz Phair watching the band & rocking out as well while US Royalty played!

Weird but true fact of the night...Liz Phair had NO merch to sell at this show, no shirts, no pictures, nothing at all!

I won't waste time with the openers, the night was about Liz Phair & she took the stage in an ultra low-key fashion, no huge intro, the band walked onstage, their set up was ultra-minimal, they had small amps that most bands would use to practice through, but her guitar player is the secret to her amazing live show...I never caught his name but he is a damn good player!

Liz opened with "Supernova" & it was interesting to see her opening with a song that could clearly have been in her encore since that was one of her "hits".

Liz wore a black mini skirt, black spiked heels which limited her movement, grey leggings, a large studded belt, a plaid dress styled vest that showed a phair amount of skin when she changed guitars & for a woman in her 40's who has a kid & toured extensively Liz has definitely held together pretty decent through the years.

No one will deny that Liz has a weak voice but what her voice lacks she makes up for with enthusiasm, energy & positive vibes.

Towards the middle of the set Liz invited 2 females onstage to sing "Flower" with her & the one older woman did not know the song, she basically stood there while the other girl sang the song.

The set list featured a few new songs, "Oh, Bangladesh", "And He Slayed Her" & "Nashville"...the new songs she chose to play live were the ones that were not sample heavy & more organic music wise....the bulk of her new record "Funstyle" is not necessarily a record you can perform live & I give Liz credit for realizing what her fans what to hear...the bulk of her set was older material & the only songs from her "pop" phase she performed was "Why Can't I?" & "Extraordinary".

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I can't recall the exact placement, but "Girls Room" was played this night as well & that's a song Liz doesn't always play!

"Divorce Song" was 4th in the set list & that was one of the highlights for me personally...the song has great energy, the band played it solid & the closer for the first set was "Fuck and Run".

Liz's encore was not listed & it was done pretty loose...the first song in the encore was "Alaska" & it was done by Liz alone...she f*cked it up a bit & she acknowledged that she didn't remember the entire song...this song was performed because her lead guitarist had to change a string on his main guitar so it allowed Liz to screw around a bit..."Johnny Feelgood" was the nights closer.

It's funny, Liz uses generic guitar pics that have the "tortex" logo on it, she doesn't have her name on the bass drum head, she had NO backdrop...when you see a Liz Phair concert it's all about the music, the show is simply the musicians on that stage....it's a fun night for Liz Phair phans!