I've got a whole city to hold down

March 15, 2004

Review the reviews

Greg Kot on Kid Rock

Jeff Vrabel on Kid Rock

Bobby Reed on the Mavericks with BR549

Brian Orloff on Liz Phair

We have nothing to say about the first three of these pieces. On Phair, though, isn't it awfully presumptuous (or maybe just creepy) for a critic, especially a male one, to use newspaper column inches to tell a female performer what is or is not an acceptable way to display her sexuality? Granted, Phair makes sex, her body and her use of it the focus of the show. Consequently it is fair game for comment in a review. At the very least, though, Orloff's tone strikes us as uncomfortably paternalistic and dictatorial. He refers to "how Phair has exploited her sex appeal" as "troubling" and a "problem." Sex has been at least an important part of her act for every minute of the decade she's been around, but the crit-slaps didn't come until she shucked the demure-indie-chick-with-a-blue-streak persona. Now Orloff pines for the days when La Liz was "fumbling and charming" (in other words, when the guy could still be comfortably in control) and he slams her for treating her guitar as "an appendage ... to fondle" (as if decades of dudely axmen from Jimi Hendrix to Jackie White haven't stroked their throbbing egos with a six-string substitute).

Bottom line. The problem with Liz Phair today is not the sex or how she sells it. It's that all the window-dressing of her latest album - the ruthlessly, perfectly plastic production, the bombastic arrangements, and the showy sexiness - can't conceal weak songs with little to say.

What do you say?

(Note: If everyone is utterly sick of hearing or thinking about Liz Phair, please post about other gigs you saw over the weekend. It was a full one - we managed to see eight acts over three days - so there's a lot to talk about. And none of it was mentioned in the papers today, which is a shame.)