Liz Phair | March 1, 2004 | The Warfield | San Francisco
being a Liz Phair
aficionado, I had practically no preconceived notions upon entering The
Warfield to see her perform. I did some pre-show prep and listened to the
newest album (Liz Phair, 2003) and then the first album (Exile in
Guyville, 1993) before the show. Upon listening to the difference in these
releases, and talking with some long-time fans at the show, it seems that people
are generally disappointed with the new one. There is a definite overproduced
and more "poppy" quality to the new album. This seems to be a variation
on a common theme among bands and their fans as time moves on. Old fans become
jaded and their opinion of new fans and the new music may be one of disregard.
That being said, the question before she began was, will she play new or old
stuff? I had the new album fresh in my mind and thankfully I had a long-time
fan behind me clueing me in to the old stuff. (Thanks Randy!) Throughout her hour
and a half set, Phair hit both the old and new, drawing a mixed reaction from
the crowd. Opening with "Flower" from Exile and an early
"Polyester Bride" from Whitechocolatespaceegg (1998), she then
dove into her new material with the cheesy "Rock Me." "Divorce
Song" was a crowd pleaser for the sing-alongers, and she gave us some piano
love on "Chopsticks" from her second album Whip-Smart (1994).
Phair performed the majority of her latest album including "Why Can't I,"
"Extraordinary," "Love/Hate," "Friend of Mine,"
and the two attempts at raunchiness that came out a little more sweet than probably
intended, "Favorite" and "H.W.C." (I don't really want to
tell you what that acronym stands for.)
her singing did not blow me away and as I watched and listened I realized that
possibly it was not her musicianship or her abilities as a singer that drew
people to her. She has a real honest spirit that really connects her to her
fans. I watched young women (and men too) singing along and smiling up at her
throughout the whole show. There is something very redeeming seeing a girl dressed
in pink holding an electric guitar. Whether she did much more than swing it
around while subtly shaking her stuff is another story but that image is something
real gem of the evening for me was the first opening act, Rachael
Yamagata. She had a completely overpowering voice that was unfaltering as
her range spanned a wide spectrum. Rachel's set was mostly her solo on acoustic
guitar or keyboard/piano--other songs she was accompanied by a guitarist. She
had a very quirky and almost awkward way about her as she told the audience
that she was singing the next song about her ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. Yamagata
and her guitar player, Cameron, agreed that they were currently on the "Heartbreak
Tour." Her mouth forms a natural frown as she chants, "Won't live for
you, die for you, or do anything anymore for you," and "Not going to
shed a tear for you" over and over until the last line of "at least
until Sunday afternoon."
I'm interested in what is going to happen with Ms. Yamagata. Her voice is just
so powerful and the numbers she did with her guitar player made me imagine her
at the helm of a great rock band. Upon further investigation, it seems that
Rachael has come to this solo act by way of the Chicago-based Bumpus, described
in her bio as this "funk-soul groove-oriented band with really well-crafted
. that sounds suspiciously jammy to me! Anyway, I'm looking
forward to hearing more from this unlikely heroine.
second opener was Patrick
Park, who came out for three solo songs with an acoustic guitar and then
was joined by a bassist and drummer. While he had great range and decent intonation,
there was nothing especially interesting about his singing voice, which was the
centerpiece of his performance.
Overall, this was a good night for witnessing the craft of three intelligent
and honest songwriters. I wasn't too upset that there weren't ripping guitar
solos--ya gotta branch out from time to time!
Photos: John Croxton
JamBase :: San Francisco
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