She might be from Chicago, but when Liz Phair came to New York City’s Hiro Ballroom, she was treated like a hometown girl. In a city where the sex lives of its women have been turned into national entertainment, her fem-rock opus Exile in Guyville is not just embraced, it’s understood.

Wearing a vest with a hot purple bra, short shorts and heels, Phair was sexy, but not forcibly so. Often labelled as having stage fright, but looking comfortable, she acknowledged her worries in past terms, “This tour is a big deal to me–I was nervous.” She was talkative and flirtatious.  “I need a guy,” she remarked, when she needed help adjusting a mic stand. “I love guys.”

Perfectly constructed in the order of its dips and peaks, Exile in Guyville made for an ideal live set – and while the album is short on flaws, it actually improved in a live setting (save a few audience members more interested in talking about the album than listening to it). Phair has better command of her voice, though she also recognized the necessity of her drone. By now, most know the identity of the subject of her work (Urge Overkill front-man Nash Kato), but that doesn’t really change anything about its power. The same likely goes for Exile in Guyville‘s supposed connection to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. Thus far, no one’s been able to link the two, and some were frustrated that she didn’t remark upon it during the tour. By now, chances are that Phair is just a marketing ingenue.

Every moment was worth listening to. The standard album highlights delivered (“6’1″,” “Dance of the Seven Veils,” “Fuck and Run,” etc.), but it was also an ideal chance to hear some of the more delicate songs in their glory – “Canary” with its jingly piano and the swirling guitars of “Shatter.”

At the end of the album, she returned for a solo encore of “Chopsticks” and “May Queen” from Whip-Smart, her second album, her own rendition of “Wild Thing” (included as a bonus track on the new re-release of Exile) and “Polyester Bride,” from whitechocolatespaceegg.

Liz Phair: “Polyester Bride” (download)

By the night’s conclusion, two things were very clear. Firstly, relationships between men and women have changed very little in 15 years.  Secondly, Phair doesn’t have much to worry about. “This is how I really am,” she quipped before her encore. And how she really is is quite good.

For more pictures, go here. Click the jump for video of “Divorce Song” from this show.


To see the video in high-def, go here and click “watch in high quality.”