Well, I’d like to tell you that I was disappointed by the Liz show last night, but I’d be lying. I went into it thinking the show would be just south of mediocre — Liz isn’t exactly known as a live performer, her strength used to be in her songwriting, which she compromised years ago leaving her with nothing of value other than really nice hair. Like I said, I wasn’t disappointed.
The mix was about as bad as it gets at Sokol Aud. It’s always boomy. It was particularly boomy last night. You could barely hear her guitar. Unfortunately, you could hear her lead guitarist and his overtly ornate style all too well (someone needs to take away about half of his pedals). And although Liz played a half-dozen songs from Exile, I would have preferred that she hadn’t. Not with this band, not with these arrangements. To make the most of her “new style” of songwriting, Liz has put together a So Cal-style chug-a-lug ensemble — an absolute necessity of you’re going to play the type of cheese-flavored shitola that she now squats for a living. Keep them away from the classics, please. I don’t need to hear “6’1″” turned into an Eagles song. There’s a reason why there isn’t a guitar solo on that track. Exile wasn’t about guitar histrionics.
Which brings us to Liz’s vocals. Look, everyone knows she sings like your sister fronting a neighborhood garage band — that’s part of the charm and honesty of Exile. The slightly off-kilter voice is every girl you knew in high school who decided to take a shop class instead of Home Ec. On stage, it’s just as wobbly — not a bad thing if you’re playing the ’90s. A problem if you’re playing Avril karaoke. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, most were there to see a Sheryl Crow concert. Well, Liz ain’t no Sheryl Crow. Liz will never be Sheryl Crow. She doesn’t have Sheryl Crow chops. And writing Sheryl Crow songs only accentuates the negative.
So am I wrong calling her new songwriting style misdirected? Well, my girlfriend, who’s never heard a Liz Phair album in her life, preferred every song performed from Exile and Whip-smart — even in this watered down form — over the limp stuff from her last two records. “6’1″,” “Never Said,” “Mesmerizing” “Fuck and Run” “Supernova” all rocked with an energy that made the new stuff seem formulaic and flaccid in comparison. Regardless, the biggest cheers she received last night came for the more recent stuff. The opening chords of the Avrilesque “Why Can’t I?” were met with high-pitched squeals from all the women in the crowd (and there were a lot of them). Liz said “This one isn’t very radio” when introducing “H.W.C,” her current take on “edgy” sung to a melody that has all the depth of a toothpaste commercial jingle. It was a short set, maybe 40 minutes, and I didn’t stick around for the encore.
Some sidenotes: It was crowded, and hot, probably because the adjacent gym was closed off for the first time that I can remember. That said, it looked like there was still about 800 people there (I didn’t get a headcount from the promoter). One guy commented about how lifeless the crowd seemed. I’m not sure what he expected or, really, how the crowd reaction was different than at an indie show. The only difference was in the average concertgoer’s age. There were a lot of soccer moms in the audience last night, and that ain’t such a bad thing. They need to get out more. Like maybe tonight, when Lawrence bands The Pomonas and Conner (very Rapture dance-esque) take the stage at O’Leaver’s. I was told last night that there have been some improvements in the sound system there. We’ll see.
Look here for a blog update tomorrow (which will probably include a show review).
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