Monday, March 15, 2004

Imaginary Accomplishments

"I can feel it in my bones/I'm gonna spend another year alone/Fuck and run, fuck and run/Even when I was 17/Fuck and run, fuck and run/Even when I was 12..."

In the beginning let me just state I love Liz Phair's music. It's cheeky, it's insightful, it's sexy, and it comes from a terribly unique yet somehow familiar voice.

And not much more matters after seeing Liz perform Thursday night at First Ave because it was one of those shows that you enjoy in spite of yourself, despite what your critical stoplights tell you is going to happen no matter what.

This trip began in the mid-90's when I was driving home late one evening with Nancy Jean from a concert in Rochester. The skies really let loose and the rain exploded with a mighty crash so we pulled off and grabbed a motel room for the night. It was one of those nights where the adrenaline was flowing much too fast and too freely and it ended with me uttering a line that Nancy Jean later told a group of people much to my horror was the most painful thing anyone had ever said to her (and she wore her battle scars quite nakedly). The line that spilled from my lips was this (as Nancy Jean was bouncing up and down on the motel bed), "I'll do anything you want if you'll only put your clothes back on..."

And I guess the only reason I now come clean to admitting to uttering this statement is that while eating dinner with my dear friend Lisa Anne Marie before we headed on over to First Ave to see Liz I told Lisa that I wished only one thing: that Liz didn't come on stage stark naked. After seeing her latest photo shoot, a pictorial that wouldn't seem out of place in Playboy, I gotta say that while Liz is certainly an attractive woman and the pictures are provocative- all her sexy media campaign is starting to detract from the music. Her music has always been rather naked and starkly brutal in what it reveals so we don't need to see Liz's boobs and butt flapping in the wind to listen to what she has to say.

The stage grew dark around 8:30 p.m. Two twin purple lights beamed upward as the band blasted into metallic cacophony that made the ears ring. Lisa Anne Marie speculated that Liz would rise up from the floor but unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead she strolled onto stage and sang out a heavy metal arrangement of "Flower." The band sounded much tighter than it had last September at the same venue. Liz's vocals were also more crisp as she sang from a Bud Grant-like headset (just those worn by Christina and Brittney!) yet more tinny and nasally. She sorta sounded just like a little girl (yet she broke just like a woman!).

From there it was "Polyester Bride," and "Rock Me," and a really terrific "Uncle Alvarez." Liz and the band rocked hard on songs like "My Bionic Eyes," "Fuck and Run," Mesmerizing," and "Super Nova," yet for me it was two quiet little moments that really made the show stick out in my mind. She played keyboard for the only time all night on "Chopsticks," remembering writing the song with it's barefaced simplicity and that it was an effort to fool her mother into thinking she was practicing something else while taking piano lessons. Liz also did a great, seemingly off the cuff, "Explain it to Me," that was full of chatter and encouraging the guitarist to keep playing even if he wasn't sure of his part.

She sang throughout the night with a big grin on her face as if she was really enjoying herself but it conveyed something beyond that. Lisa Anne Marie identified the smirk behind the smile as suggesting that Liz knows her songs convey a deeper meaning beyond sexual frankness and titillating an audience with something even more perverse- that she knows her songs delve more deeply and honestly into what gives us all pleasure and pain and the mixture and the mixing up of the two somehow trips us all up. Lisa Anne Marie quite accurately said that Liz's music intertwines anger and being horny and the combination of the two probably answer why Liz is a divorced mother and one who apparently has some man troubles in her life. Naked is what it is.

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