Liz Phair at the Bluebird, 01/18/11
With Le Divorce
01.18.11 | Bluebird Theater
As Le Divorce got things going last night, the room was pretty crowded, a nice change from the typical turnout for opening acts. It was entirely appropriate that Le Divorce opened for Liz Phair, seeing as how frontwoman Kitty Vincent has a way of turning awkward between-song banter and seemingly clumsy, self-effacing humor into something curiously endearing, not unlike the headliner.
Beyond that, the group's mixture of dusky atmospheres and sometimes charging, sometimes spinning dynamics coupled with occasional undercurrents of jazz structure allowed for subtle emotional textures. Chris Durant and Ryan Stubbs provided the perfect springboard for Joe Grobelny's borderline spastic stage antics to match his musical gyrations on guitar. By the end of its set, people seemed to be refreshingly into Le Divorce, which closed with one of its best numbers, "Splinter Song."
Apparently Liz Phair and her bandmates had a good day on the town or something, because they all came on stage in good spirits, and after performing "Supernova," Phair remarked on how she loved playing Denver because the crowds were pretty rowdy. She added that when she played here last, she performed nervously, with just her and a guitar, but that the crowd was nice to her. This crowd was surprisingly giving and enthusiastic, and Phair and company fed off of that energy and gave much of themselves back. That's what makes for a great show at any time from anyone.
Phair's set largely comprised tracks from Exile in Guyville, Whip-Smart and Whitechocolatespaceegg. There were some minor technical difficulties, inevitable on any tour at some point, but Phair laughed it off and dealt with the problems with good humor and patience, as if she's been through this so often that not only doesn't it faze her, but she's totally prepared for the show to go on, regardless.
After "May Queen," Phair joked, "Let's have a contest and see what else can go wrong." Despite these interruptions, the momentum of the show didn't really seem to flag. In fact, Phair said, "Maybe we could just play 'Flower'" and asked if anyone in the audience could do the backing vocals. One guy got up on stage and floundered a little, to which Phair said he needed a little help. At that point, she brought up a girl from the crowd, and together they all performed the Phair classic.
All of the songs served as a reminder that Phair has written some of the more brashly inspired lyrics of the last two decades, and her music this time out recalled early Pretenders in its use of melody and rhythm. Phair still had that mischievous but friendly girl vibe to her performance, but it was bolstered by the confidence she's built for herself over the last several years getting used to performing in front of audiences.