Thursday, February 21

Phairly good, but not great


Phairly good, but not great

By Michael Horowitz

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

It’s to Liz Phair’s credit that fans expected a little more of
her on Tuesday night. The ultra-cool critical darling played the
Wiltern as part of her truncated solo electric tour, giving her
fans a hit of the much-needed live performance and showing off her
songwriting first and foremost.

She needed a band. Yeah, the lack of backup was part of the
concept, and yeah, Phair enjoys the freedom of solo performance,
but some of her stuff just needs a couple more instruments to cut
free. "Supernova," "6’1" and "Jealousy" scream for some drums and
more power.

Phair took the stage armed with a single guitar and didn’t move
a foot in any direction the entire time. The most movement in the
place was the guitar’s reflection swinging across the faces of the
orchestra section. Although the stage was set up as a living room,
she didn’t seem quite at home.

As the sound slowly improved throughout the hour and a quarter
of music, she powered through around 20 songs, organized more by
tempo than theme. About around two-thirds of the way through, the
show hit its prime with her most-known material from her debut.

Phair also left the audience wanting a little more commentary
after the Wiltern show. In her limited press interviews, she comes
across as brilliantly edgy and alluring, so why can’t she just
throw out a comment or two between songs?

And why couldn’t she have had a band come out for an encore?

A big part of these two criticisms can be chalked up to stag
fright, the reason fans don’t get to see enough of her, and the
reason she’s not about to unleash a stadium tour any time soon.
What would be nice would be a McCabe’s-style small venue tour to
give her the intimacy she needs and the access her fans desire.
Then they’d be able to appreciate Phair for all her guts and
glory.

Thankfully, she played almost everything anyone could’ve wanted
Tuesday, with the glaring exception of "Whipsmart" which needed the
back-up band anyway. Asking for requests at several moments in the
show, she made the effort to play everyone’s favorites, from "Fuck
and Run" and "Flower" to the newer "Support System" and others from
her recent album Supernova.

Added to these selections she previewed a bunch of new ones
including "Hurricane Cindy," a sarcastic ode to the supermodel. The
new stuff didn’t quite measure up on first listen, but Phair
records are remarkable for their ability to grow on you.

Phair is one of the few musicians out there who has the
potential to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime, existence-changing
performance. Her material, her talent and her gift for composition
are impeccable. Unfortunately Tuesday’s show wasn’t on this level.
Put Exile in Guyville back into the CD player and wait for next
time.

Opener Jewel, bashed for her premiere album, showed she’s got a
lot more to offer than made it onto Pieces of You. Her candid
comments between songs, her affecting personality and her
self-effacing humor won over the Wiltern crowd with ease.

Though she lacks the songwriting to pull off heavy-concept, big
idea songs about tolerance and humanity, Jewel has already grown
beyond her first collection of material. With a spot-on impression
of Dolores of the Cranberries and some kick-ass yodeling, she
showed she’s got the pipes from god, and her second album should be
one to watch for.

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