Liz Phair Gets Upbeat And Personal With Crowd

Sexually explicit singer/songwriter delivered an intimate performance in support of whitechocolatespaceegg.

LOS ANGELES -- In a way, the mood established onstage just before

Liz Phair's set-opener was the exact opposite of what was to come.

There was a mystique in the image of Phair's shadow taking shape on the

closed, white curtain as the Mayan Theatre's stage lights brightened. With

the shape of a guitar neck extending from its centerpoint, the silhouette

was almost iconic, like a symbol of a rock performer as a mythic,

superhuman figure.

But as the curtain opened, revealing the woman behind it, the air of

mystery immediately dissolved.

The real Phair, wearing a long dress with sections of white, brown and

black, appeared much smaller than her shadow. And as she launched into

"Explain It To Me," from her 1993 debut album, Exile

in Guyville, Phair smiled shyly, less a stagy, overblown rock star than

a bona-fide girl-next-door.

Phair's one-hour show Thursday night at the beautiful downtown theater had

an intimate, personal feel throughout, with the singer/songwriter -- who's

known for her confessional and frank lyrics -- exuding a friendly, playful

vibe. At one point, she wished a fan happy birthday; at another, she

engaged in a brief conversation with a man on the upstage balcony about a

mutual friend. "Does she still live in San Francisco?" Phair asked the

balcony guy. "Tell her I said hi."

"She's charming and she's genuine, which is refreshing," red-haired

31-year-old

concert-goer Christa Clark said after the show.

"Her stage demeanor reflects the honesty of her lyrics," agreed Mark

Owens, 25, of Newport Beach, Calif.

Despite Phair's deceiving silhouette at the beginning of the show, the night's intimate feel was established prior to Phair and her

four-piece backup band taking the stage. For a full half-hour, slides

picturing Phair in a variety of private settings and poses were projected

onto a white curtain at the back of the stage. Though the idea seemed more

than a little self-indulgent, it did serve the purpose of establishing the

night's mood and setting the tone for the carefully choreographed staging

and lighting to come.

Phair opted for more of an upbeat show instead of predominately relying on

her ballad-heavy new album, whitechocolatespaceegg. While she played

six songs from the new release, she drew liberally from the more rocking

Exile in Guyville, as well as taking three excerpts from 1996's

Whip-Smart.

The first new song that Phair played was the fourth number of the night,

"White

Chocolate Space Egg." With the back curtain shaded by

blue and gray lights, the song carried a moody feel as the band sustained a

somewhat drony sonic backdrop to Phair's spoken/sung vocals.

The skillful backup band had its best moment on Phair's 1996 hit

"Supernova." With disco balls twirling on either corner

of the stage, the performance exuded an intense, neo-retro vibe. That feel

was sustained in the next number, "What Makes You Happy," the chorus of which

featured '70s-style wah-wah guitars.

Before playing the raunchy number "Flower," from Exile, Phair

accepted a bouquet of flowers from a frontline fan, saying in a girlish

tone, "I'll take a flower." Then, as she and her background singer

co-delivered the vocals -- which includes the lyric about "a cunt in the

spring" as well as the threat to "suck you 'til your dick turns blue" --

images of butterflies and flowers were projected onto the back curtain.

For an encore, Phair delivered an intimate, solo rendition of the beautiful

girl-and-guitar ballad

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"Perfect World" (RealAudio excerpt). The band then rejoined her for a

rollicking finale that began with Phair asking the audience, teasingly,

"What's that? 'Duck and Run ... Suck and Come'?" before kicking into her debut

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"Fuck and Run" (RealAudio excerpt) against a backdrop of red stars

twirling inside bright-white circles.

It was a far different Phair than the stage-shy performer from years past.

As the song drew to a close, a guitar-less Phair got even looser with a

goofy-looking, flamboyant dance, hopping while flapping her hands through

the air.

Meanwhile, a female fan in the crowd mimicked Phair's motions, working her

way through the venue's entire bottom-floor as she danced.

"I had a really weird experience because I'm not used to sharing her," said

the fan, 39-year-old Amy Died, after the show. "I feel like I have an

intimate relationship with her because I'm a sculptor and I listen to her

while I work. It was just odd hearing other people get into 'Fuck and Run.' "