‘When I’m happy, I don’t have time to write new songs.’
Many of Liz Phair’s songs, spanning her 28-year alternative rock career, are about heartbreak and loss, and DC was more than happy to listen to her perform 17 of them at the 9:30 Club on October 3rd.
The 9:30 Club was so full, you couldn’t cram even one more person in (presumably), as Liz is traveling the country for her Amps on the Lawn Tour, promoting a new 25th anniversary box set (Girly-Sound to Guyville) to commemorate her first album, Exile in Guyville.
She and her backing band of four kicked off with “Supernova”, where the lyrics were subsumed for a time by the music (later corrected), singing that we ‘have got my favorite face’ and generally how awesome we were (of course she must have been talking about us).
Between songs, she chatted a little to us in the crowd, like ‘This might be uncool, but DC might be my favorite (city to play in).’ This could be true, because she plays here often, last at Lincoln Theatre in 2016. She’s also played at the 9:30 Club at least six times previously! That’s certainly solid supporting evidence.
Before they entered the stage, five guitars lined the stage foreshadowing the rock tunes Liz and band had in store for us, below a backdrop of a grass panel sporting a few flowers hanging off, solidifying the ‘Lawn’ theme of the tour.
Later came “Cinco de Mayo”, a favorite from 1994’s Whip-Smart, and the truly funky “Uncle Alvarez”, with a sweet guitar solo and the fun, hummable hook, ”Oh, oh, oh imaginary accomplishments’.
Mixing up her normal setlist, Liz brought out Sadie Dupuis (the lead singer of the openers, Speedy Ortiz) to play what she called the ‘super rarity’ “Blood Keeper”. All because a fan requested it persistently before the show on Twitter, and she finally gave in. Speedy Ortiz also released a cover of the song, which doesn’t appear on any of Liz’s albums as it was meant to be used in the movie Scream 2 (but left out).
One of the aforementioned songs of heartbreak was the new “The Game”, guitar heavy and infectious, and hopefully will be available soon.
At the end of the main set, she played her singles from the more pop rock friendly album from 2003, Liz Phair. “Extraordinary” is about how great Liz is (true) and how she’ll make us love her. And what became her biggest hit, the poppy “Why Can’t I?”, a departure from her music in the 1990’s, but still an infectious ode to the anticipation and excitement of love. Liz has never been afraid to try new styles or be lyrically surprising, even if the songs aren’t always as well received by critics or perceived as catering to the sounds of the times.
Coming back for the encore, with the quintessential Liz Phair song, “Fuck and Run”, where she laments she wants a boyfriend and ‘all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas’ that comes with a relationship, but she was still probably going to return to form, with one night stands.
She ended the solid evening with “Divorce Song”, from Exile in Guyville that brought us back to what was often endearing from her early albums, the off kilter lyrics and vocalizations.
The best songs she played that night at the 9:30 Club were the rocking “Never Said”, and “Mesmerizing” with its incredible guitar licks.
Head over to the Amazons and ask them to send you a copy of Girly-Sound to Guyville, it’s full of great cuts and tracks from her career. And watch out for when she returns to the 9:30 Club, it surely won’t be long.
Cinco de Mayo
Help Me Mary
Why Can’t I?
Fuck and Run
“The Game” at 9:30 Club, October 3, 2018