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Liz Phair
A Concert Review

October 25, 1998

The Vic

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
Have you ever gone to your uncle's house after he and auntie went on their vacation to Europe? If so, especially about 15 years ago, before the age of video cameras, you may have been told to sit down because it was time to see the slides of their vacation. Auntie would go and get a bed sheet to hang on the wall while uncle would set up the slide projector, and for the next half an hour to an hour you got to see all of the "cool" places they were able to visit on their "20 cities in 10 days" tour of Europe. As I sat in my seat, a little bummed because my photo pass wasn't there, the lights went down and the slide projectors were fired up. Flashbacks of my uncle's house screamed back into my head, well, at least for the first 10 seconds, but then this slide show became quite different.

Now, being at a Liz Phair concert, I was expecting a cool slide show, maybe showing some shots of sights from Liz's current tour, maybe some backstage stuff from Liz's stint on Lilith Fair, maybe some shots of Liz and the band in the studio, and maybe shots of Liz being a mom. I thought that might be cool, but that was not going to be the case for this slide show. Nope, this slide show consisted mostly of images that looked like they were shot in a photo booth (to which the little girlie sitting next to me surmised that maybe they were shot in the photo booth at the Rainbow Club, a supposed Liz hang-out, because she thought she recognized one of the bartenders in a couple of the photos), coupled with a pretty cool soundtrack of songs from the Violent Femmes to Madonna. This was alright, for maybe the first 5 minutes, but became dis-interesting quickly, and especially when it seemed the 15 minute slide show repeated itself. I was really hoping that the concert portion of this show would be more entertaining, at least for me, although some folks seemed to really enjoy the slides. What do I know?

As the slide show seemed to be ending, in the shadows behind the curtain you could see the band beginning to assemble, and it was finally time for the concert. I was eager because I had never seen Liz Phair before, had just fallen in love with her latest CD, "whitechocolatespaceegg," and was curious to see how she would fare in concert hearing the stories about her previous bouts with stage fright. All I can say is "What stage fright?" because Liz Phair rocked.

Opening with "Explain It To Me" (or so said the girlie next to me), Liz rocked her little butt off for the next hour and a half. Now, only having one Liz Phair CD, I was a little lost as to what some of the songs were, but that didn't skew my enjoying the show any less, in fact it made me eager to search out "Exile in Guyville" and "Whip-Smart" during my next CD shopping binge. Lots of things started impressing me as I watched Liz from my seat in the rafters, not the least is that she is taking the reported stage-frightedness and using it to her advantage. Yes, the music was clean, Liz's voice sounded great, and I was opened up to a world of frank lyrics. But, as much as I loved the music portion of the show, I just as much liked Liz's banter between the songs, which, whereas some singers can just toss out the stories and lines as if rehearsed, Liz's shyness and seemingly uncertainty gives her a more human quality, a more down to earth quality, and even though she tells you up front she isn't really sure how to explain the meaning to a song, somehow you get it anyway (like her intro in "Uncle Alvarez"). She can also take a mistake and now make that show your own, like her blurting out "Shit," into a recovery of singing during "Big Tall Man" as she blew a line.

From my follow-up investigations, the show touched on a variety of her material, songs I knew, and songs I want to know, and sounded great. Her couple of radio hits were there, the likes of "Supernova" and her latest, "Polyester Bride," but this being a hometown crowd, and a crowd of fans who didn't grow to like Liz based on one song, those were just as well received as songs like "Explain It To Me," "Fuck and Run," and the song "Flower," which, as I listened to it, I was kinda bummed that I decided to go to college in Chicago rather than Oberlin College which was about 20 minutes from home, wondering if there might have been more girls there with that attitude.

So, all in all, Liz Phair has at least one new fan - me. I enjoy a good show, I enjoy an artist who can appear truly human on stage, and I enjoyed Liz Phair.  It's Two "Why Didn't I Go To Oberlin College?" Thumbs Up!

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right! L8R!!

 

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