Pretenders / Cat Power / Juliette Lewis Malkin Bowl, Vancouver, BC August 26
Published Aug 27, 2009"Rain or Shine!" threatened the tickets for this concert at the picturesque but exposed-to-the-elements Malkin Bowl in Vancouver's Stanley Park. And for a while, it looked distinctly as if the former might become a reality, which may explain why the show started rather hurriedly, likely causing those not entirely on the ball to miss much of Juliette Lewis's opening set. Still, the weather held, and even brightened a little as Cat Power took the stage.
A lot of writing about Chan Marshall focusses on her evolution as a performer. She's now less apt to flee the stage in tears mid-set, which is all well and good, but the most interesting parts of the show were when the old Cat Power shined through, shaking her head and cussing herself out between songs; in particular, the cover of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" crackled with the unhinged energy that characterized her earlier work. Also missing is her idiosyncratic guitar playing, which she now leaves to a crack team of backup musicians. Perhaps the most distinctive element of Cat Power, though, is still absolutely stunning: her voice.
Chan Marshall's crooning vocal style owes a lot to Chrissie Hynde, and as the Pretenders' front-woman took to the stage, the audience was reminded that indie rock as a genre owes a lot to the shimmering guitar pop that the band pioneered in the early '80s. Some of the requisite new songs weren't that strong, but Hynde is still a consummate performer, cracking wise with the audience and striking guitar-goddess poses with her signature Telecaster, and her iconic voice seems to have been preserved in amber since 1982. And when the Pretenders rolled out classics like "Kid," "Middle of the Road" and "Back on the Chain Gang," well, it was awesome. Even later material like 1995's cover of Chip Taylor's "Angel of the Morning" didn't fail to please. Hynde is the real deal, and she's still got it.
More than just a nostalgia trip for boomers, this was a worthwhile show in its own right.