- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Liz Phair closes her Chicks With Attitude tour tomorrow night at the 9:30 Club. She began the 19-city tour in early August as a final live goodbye before heading back into the studio to record a follow-up to last year’s provocative self-titled CD, “Liz Phair.”

The Chicks tour lineup includes gritty 16-year-old singer Katy Rose and the sweet Swedish pop of the Cardigans. Opening the show is rising star Charlotte Martin, a singer-songwriter handpicked by Miss Phair for the tour.

For the past year, Miss Martin, 28, has been, as she puts it, “doing it grass roots, just touring…. Me, my manager and a sound guy in an SUV with a keyboard in the back” drumming up attention first for her 2003 EP “In Parentheses” and now for her full-length label debut “On Your Shore,” which RCA released Aug. 10.

Miss Martin says she was thrilled when Miss Phair invited her to be part of the tour — not only for the exposure it offered but also for the opportunity to perform with other female artists.

“I’ve never toured with women, so I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but everyone’s been really supportive. I really don’t want it to be over,” she said.

Reviews of “On Your Shore” earned Miss Martin praise for her emotionally raw lyrics and skillful compositions. Her classical music background shows in songs such as “Every Time It Rains” while a 1990s goth sensibility shadows “Haunted.”

Despite her youth and cover-girl looks, Miss Martin’s honest soprano and powerful keyboard work have earned her comparisons not to pretty, piano-playing peers such as Vanessa Carlton and Alicia Keys, but to passionate inspirers like Tori Amos and Kate Bush.

Although many new artists bristle at labels and glib comparisons, Miss Martin takes it in stride.

“I knew the record I wanted to make. I love it, and I’m proud of it,” she said. “I only had expectations as far as I could control them, and then I had to let it go. I don’t care what they compare me or my music to because I know it’s just so that people can wrap their heads around it and get into something new.”

Miss Martin adds that she doesn’t pay much attention to her — or anyone’s — reviews because, she says, “as a listener and a fan of music, I want to be able to make my own opinions.”

Tomorrow night won’t be Miss Martin’s first time onstage at the 9:30 Club and it is unlikely to be her last. Once the Chicks tour wraps, she’ll hit the road again for more “On Your Shore” support.

• • •

Scissor Sisters is bringing its glamorous rock ‘n’ roll to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday.

“We’ve always had this vision of being a rock band, and it’s finally grown into that,” says Scissor Sisters’ colorfully monikered cofounder Babydaddy. The New York-based quintet — four men and one woman — aren’t even related, much less sisters, but its glittery, pop debut, “Scissor Sisters,” is connecting with audiences.

Scissor Sisters — then comprised of multi-instrumentalist Babydaddy and frontman Jake Shears — began in the wake of September 11 as a way to “try and entertain ourselves and our friends at a time when we really needed it.”

Their shows on the downtown cabaret circuit introduced them to performance artist Ana Matronic, who joined the group in late 2001, followed by guitarist Del Marquis and drummer Patrick Seacor.

Asked to describe the Scissor Sisters’ sound, Babydaddy says, “It’s our effort of looking back at pop history as we lived it and bringing it back. Some people say it’s retro, but for me it’s looking forward. It’s pop music without any sort of prejudice.”

Listening to the CD, original songs such as “Lovers in the Backseat” and “Music is the Victim” recall everyone from Erasure to Elton John. And then there’s the “Saturday Night Fever”-esque cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” The CD is already platinum in Europe and is beginning to cut up the charts in the United States, despite some early snags.

“In the beginning, before the album was released, we had concerns we’d have to battle some staunch conservativeness in America, that we’d get pigeonholed as a ‘gay band.’ That’s just not a part of our vocabulary,” Babydaddy says.

When the CD came out, it was slapped with a parental advisory sticker, despite having arguably off-color imagery or lyrics in just one song.

“It’s quite a positive album. It’s full of self-confidence. It’s a unifying album that accepts the differences in people,” Babydaddy said. The band contested the warning and won. “I don’t know why it’s happening this way, but it seems a way is being paved for us.”

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