I’d not seen Cat Power live before last night. I didn’t get into her until the You Are Free record and she never seemed to be in the same city at the same time as me. Of course, her shows prior to 2006 were notorious for her erratic behaviour (never finishing a song, crying under the piano, etc.). The Chan Marshall of 2008, however, is soberish, healthy, and seemingly in great spirits if her smiles last night were anything to go by. This is, undoubtedly, great to see. It’s just a shame that last night’s show at the Enmore Theatre was pretty dull.
Backed by the superb Dirty Delta Blues (who feature members of Dirty Three, Delta 72, and Blues Explosion), Cat Power is in the position to be putting on fantastic shows which is why I was a bit dumbfounded by last night’s performance. The band were great but Chan’s vocals were far too often buried so deep in the mix that the keyboards overwhelmed her voice and I could barely make out any discernible lyrics for many of the songs.
At one point during a quiet moment an audience member yelled out “Turn up the vocals!” which seemed to go unnoticed. I’m still not sure if Chan wants to have her shows sound like this or if we were just unlucky with the sound at the Enmore last night.
Of course the biggest shame about all this is that Chan has one of the most gorgeous female voices in music these days – ethereal and smoky. There were songs where things worked well such as She’s Got You, originally made famous by Patsy Cline. Here the band were more restrained so Chan’s vocals were clear and fit the volume of the music. Song To Bobby, one of the comparatively few originals in the set, was another song that seemed to work beautifully. Thankfully, The Greatest, which turned up in the encore, was also performed wonderfully as it’s one of my favourite songs of the last few years.
Unfortunately, many of the other songs simply didn’t do it for me. I love it when artists interpret the work of others and I was expecting that from this show (Cat Power is touring a covers record, after all). Chan’s arrangements are generally unique and last night was no exception. But The Tracks of My Tears, one of the greatest songs ever written, surely would have been more enjoyable if you could actually clearly hear Chan enunciating the lyrics.
And maybe my lack of enthusiasm about this gig has more to do with my lack of enthusiasm about Jukebox (which, while lovely at times, just as often seems a little aimless). But whatever the cause I’d have to say I was disappointed with the gig. Chan Marshall is a talented songwriter/song-interpreter with an exceptional voice. It’s just too bad neither of those qualities were on display consistently last night.
Woman Left Lonely
Aretha, Sing One For Me
Lord, Help The Poor & Needy
She’s Got You
Song To Bobby
The Tracks Of My Tears
Naked, If I Want To
Dark End Of The Street
Where Is My Love?
Lived In Bars
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
There might be an issue or two with that setlist…I had a hard time recognizing some of the songs. Let me know if I’ve got something out of place.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mick Turner of The Dirty Three was supporting Cat Power. Accompanied by Dirty Three drummer Jim White, Mick’s set consisted of a nearly seamless 30 minutes which saw him turn a guitar into a mini-orchestra. Using only some loop pedals and samplers, a cello bow, and a mellotron, Mick built up his songs to some absolutely haunting and gorgeous crescendos. Great stuff.
A few (blurry) photos from the gig here.
Update: Wayne has just put up his review. It seems I’m not the only one…