Published Nov 03, 2012The reputation of Cat Power's live set precedes her, with Chan Marshall's history of unsanitary and insane stage antics rivalling the likes of Anton Newcombe and Mark E. Smith.
As is often the case, Cat Power went on late. About 35 minutes after Marshall and co. were supposed to go on, the lights dimmed and Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" played in its entirety. After the recording had completed, still no one was onstage. A few moments of self-reflection later, the band finally started shuffling out, making sure to take another minute to tune, adjust candles and incense, and allow Marshall time to receive a bouquet of flowers from the front row, crinkle it around while mumbling something about love and, at long last, take her place at the mic.
From the moment go, Marshall appeared confused and uncomfortable. She moved awkwardly, grasping at her necklace, pulling her jacket closed, slapping her leg offbeat, and occasionally twitching peculiar moves like Mick Jagger with a degenerative nerve disease. Her earpiece fell out early, and a couple songs in, she picked up a guitar, which she then accidentally unplugged while trundling about. She bent down to plug it back in, and her shoulder strap fell off as she got back up, leading her to shuffle to the back of the stage to diddle around with her back to the crowd until the song was over. It seemed as though she gave up on all of her songs by the end, wandering away from the mic to guzzle from a water bottle while her band finished up.
Granted, her four-piece band was okay, with fairly stunning visuals moving between projections and a variety of synched lighting cues, and there were occasional moments of worthiness. The intro to the set was a slow-building version of the title track from 2006's The Greatest, taking it from sombre symphonic musing into more prog-rock territory, and for a moment, it seemed as though the wait would be worth it.
But this hope was immediately dashed by "Cherokee" from her recent electronic-rock effort Sun, the song's eagle squall even more piercing and unnecessary live than on record. The group would go on to play most of Cat Power's latest album, complete with all its tacky digital effects.
Yet Marshall's presence was unsettling, and her vocals showed the strain of years of substance abuse. The choice of Bob Dylan as an intro seemed apt in retrospect, as this felt very much like seeing Dylan in his transition years between his raw, nasally youth and the incoherent croak he's abused audiences with since.