Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Live Review: Cat Power @ The Vic Theatre, 9/13/06

Cat Power’s reputation certainly precedes her. Though I’d never seen her live before this night, countless tales of her extreme shyness and constant onstage meltdowns definitely left me intrigued to witness the disaster that was supposed to be her stage show. I was almost disappointed to learn that in the past year, the formerly fragile chanteuse seemed to gain some confidence and energy on stage, or at the very least had finally got on the right medication. After canceling her tour last spring due to the always ambiguous “health concerns,” my curiosity only grew. Finally, her Chicago date was rescheduled and I got my chance to assess Chan Marshall’s mental state for myself. After a late start, the Memphis Rhythm Band’s eight-plus members made their way out to play a couple of jazzy numbers on their own before they launched into the intro to “The Greatest” and Chan emerged in jeans, a button down shirt, and the most ridiculous pair of five-inch heels I’ve ever seen. “They were a gift from a friend of my in France,” she later told us. “He got them for free. He didn’t want them- he’s a small queen. He doesn’t wear heels.” Barely into the song, she started looking flustered and tapping the monitors before making a big “T” with her hands and forcing the band to quit so the sound guys could fix whatever monitor situation was bothering her. "What, a meltdown so soon?" I thought. But the band merely took it in stride, starting the song over again once Chan was satisfied, and she enthusiastically took to the mic to showcase her incredible voice. From then on Chan and the band ripped through the majority of The Greatest while she paraded around on stage, taking her shoes on and off, buttoning and unbuttoning her shirt, completely incapable of standing still or keeping her arms at her side. Even with the slowest numbers, like “The Moon,” she still danced around with her hands waving around out of time. It was as if as long as she kept moving, she’d be fine. As Chan closed out the final notes to “Where Is My Love,” the band slowly left the stage one by one, leaving Chan alone on stage to kick off Cat Power, Part II- the Solo Show. Without the burden of a band to rein her in, Chan took full liberty in letting her quirks show. Moving back and forth between the piano and guitar, she traipsed her way through pieces of her back catalog for at least an hour, playing songs at half-speed, stopping mid-tune to adjust her seat, frustratingly cutting songs off halfway through only to launch into another one. At one point she told us she was going to sing a new song about “a city that wasn’t Chicago,” but some form distraction led her to a five-minute monologue about the city, Arrested Development (complete with a pretty good Gob imitation), her shoes and the saying “what’s up, chicken butt?” before finally getting back to the music after audience members started yelling out song requests. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized she never even played the song she was introducing! But even if hardly anyone in the audience got to hear a full rendition of any of their favorite older songs, no one seemed to care- the audience seemed to love everything that came out of her mouth. I guess when all you have to live up to is crying and back-turning, it doesn’t take much to excite long-time Cat Power fans. Low expectations are the key to success. The Memphis Rhythm Band returned to the stage after Cat Power’s solo ruminations to begin Cat Power, Part III- The Covers Portion. After letting the band do their own thing for a song that sounded like a blues version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone,” Cat Power rejoined the stage to do a number of high-energy covers, including The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and every band’s favorite cover song of the moment, Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Again, with the band behind her, Chan limited her ramblings and idiosyncrasies, letting the music once again come to the forefront and showing that Chan really can be a great performer when she wants to be. As “Crazy” came to an end, Chan had several of the members stand up with her for a final bow. While the band slowly filed off the stage, Chan wandered around the stage and lingered by the mic, seemingly unable to leave. It seemed ironic how a woman who spent so many years trying to get off the stage now didn’t seem to be able to leave it. I left the show with mixed feelings; Chan’s voice is amazing and it’s definitely fun seeing her enjoy herself on stage (especially in the form of her Mick Jagger impersonation), but at the point when her antics take precedence to the music, it becomes too much. When you’re getting lost in the delicate piano chords of “I Don’t Blame You” and she suddenly drops everything to run over to her guitar, it leaves a little to be desired. Click here for the complete photoset


Anonymous Kirstie said...

Wow interesting...you never really know what to expect from her. When I saw her at The Park West three or four years ago she was fairly subdued but I was just happy she didn't start crying and leave the stage after thirty minutes. I really love The Greatest and I almost went to see this show-decided not to because I tend to hate the sound at the Vic. Nice pics!

9/20/2006 06:50:00 AM  

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