“I was just hanging out with Justin Bieber all day,” Liz Phair joked to the crowd at Vancouver’s Venue nightclub on Friday. “Later we ended up joining Sarah Palin at her book club.”
Hidden in the shadows of the club, I blushed. Earlier that day, I met with Phair for an interview and we had a laugh when I mentioned how Bieber and Palin were roaming around Vancouver on the day of her final West Coast show. That’s the thing about Liz Phair though. She’s like a personable friend who likes to spread the love and her show at the Venue was no different.
Perhaps her humble and no-bullshit attitude comes from a rather rollercoaster career. Since her 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville, Phair has kept reinventing herself and evolving as a artist. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work, as evidenced by the backlash over her self-titled 2003 album which had fans and critics labeling her as a sellout or with her latest experimental album Funstyle which saw her breakaway from ATO Records, but it doesn’t phase Phair. Like it or lump it, Liz Phair is here to stay.
Her show on Friday night was certainly a testament to her staying power. With a full band behind her, the tiny Phair sparked and sparkled – not only because she looked tight as a tiger in her sequined mini-dress, but because she flat-out rocked. The first song she played was her 1994 hit “Supernova” from Whip-Smart which got the small, enthusiastic crowd moving right away.
The audience seemed to be composed mainly of older fans who knew her songs word for word. There were about as many men there as women, too. For every “I love your bracelet” that a girl shouted out, some guy would shout out “You look hot!” Not surprisingly most of the men were crowded around the stage. I couldn’t blame them. With her blonde mane, shiny guitars, and glowing face, Phair was a rarity: one hot mama who could rock your socks off.
Sarah Palin jokes aside, she was quite engaging with the crowd too, in her flirty little way. When someone kept yelling for her to play her obscene classic “H.W.C” (ahem, Hot White Cum) she remarked, “My God you guys are horny! You know we were driving up from Portland and I thought, I like the Pacific Northwest but what would we do when the weather turned to shit? I know, tea, pot, and fucking!”
Vancouver’s pastimes aside, the music was rocking. It was interesting to see how amped up and gritty so many of her songs turn when played live. Classics off of Exile such as “6’1” and “Fuck and Run” were louder, faster, and stronger. The same went for her new songs from Funstyle. Though “And He Slayed Her” and “Oh, Bangladesh” were nothing extraordinary on the album, they really took on a whole other life of their own when grinding out live from Phair’s guitar. There were a few other songs from her “blacklash” era, such as the rom-com friendly “Why Can’t I Breathe” and “Extraordinary” but they too felt molded back to Phair’s rocking roots.
Earlier that day Phair had warned me that her voice may give out at the show, seeing as how it was the last stop on her West Coast tour. That was not the case. Though her pipes were a bit iffy at the start of “Oh Bangladesh”, her voice was strong overall and spot-on. Sometimes the guitars overrode her low voice, but that was more because of the finicky sound in the nightclub.
The highlights of the show were definitely in the encore. She took suggestions from the crowd to play anything off of Girlysound and the result was a cute “Speed Racer” which her and her band basically worked out on stage, and a punky, speeded-up version of “White Babies.”
But it was the final song, that delicate sounding, obscenity-spouting “Flower” that really summed up the whole evening. Phair invited an audience member on stage to sing with her if they could so confidently.
“And it has to be a girl, the guys in my band obviously can’t sing this song,” Phair laughed since the song deals with sexual talk from the female’s P.O.V.
A woman called Torie, who was giddy at the opportunity, hopped on stage and the women were off, singing side by side the two contrasting vocal tracks that make up the pretty (naughty) hit.
Surprisingly, Torie performed beautifully and the crowd – and Phair – was blown away. They hugged after it was over, an amazing moment between a fan and her idol, their energy radiating throughout the rest of the Venue, creating so much more than just a song. Can’t get more personable than that.
And He Slayed Her
Fuck N Run
Why Can’t I?
Gallery by Karina Halle