Liz Phair with the Cardigans , Katy Rose and Charlotte Martin at the Kool Haus, August 28. Tickets:$20. Attendance: 700. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The Maybelline-sponsored Chicks With Attitude tour may be going well elsewhere, but the paltry turnout at Saturday night's stop at the Kool Haus suggests that a) the Cardigans ' recent lacklustre performance in Toronto drove away their supporters, b) all Liz Phair fans went to the cottage, or, most likely, c) the 90s are over. Opener Charlotte Martin acquitted herself well with an expressive voice, emotive songs and impressive and often one-handed ivory tinklings. She had a hard time grabbing the audience's full attention, but her supporters made themselves loudly known.
Musical youth Katy Rose had a band to back her barrage of alterna-femme jams, and received a fairly good response even if there was nothing particularly distinctive about her tunes or voice.
The Cardigans may have been moon pioneers, but their sound has grown earthier since the band's pre-Y2K alterna-pop honeymoon. They were ably aided by tourmate Emm Gryner , who handled various instruments and backing vocals, and when introduced got the loudest cheer of the evening.
Gryner blended in well with the pretty Swedes, who got their Fleetwood Mac on and easily had the night's tightest performance, even if it was a super-short 30 minutes. They closed with old standby My Favourite Game, which seemed a bit forced in a set that focused more on their new sound. Nina Persson projected charm and her voice didn't falter, while bassist Magnus Sveningsson kept the energy level up by encouraging clap-alongs and generally rocking raucously.
Perhaps Liz and the Cardigans should have switched set times, because when Phair walked onstage, headset mic in place, the crowd's enthusiasm fell a few notches.
The vast difference between her newer songs (sung with a magically tuneful voice) and older material (that showcased her vocal flatness) made for an odd juxtaposition. At first, her voice sounded like it was coming from a school PA system (maybe it was the mic?), and sometimes she wasn't even audible over her backing guitarist - especially during Supernova, when it was apparent she was hardly singing the chorus at all.
Incidentally, long before it was played, a boisterous erstwhile fan yelled, "Supernova! Play your only hit!" followed by another fan yelling, "More Guyville!"
Phair did play some songs from her most respected album, but the night had a generally uninspired feel that nostalgia couldn't alleviate. It made me wish Kool Haus had more seating, cuz when people are bored, they like to sit.