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Black Cat Power

Posted by evankessler on February 6, 2009

My Best View of Cat Power All Night

I don’t know exactly what to say tonight.  It was interesting might have to suffice.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert that unfolded quite like this evening did, as Arby and I went to Williamsburg to see Cat Power at The Music Hall of Williamsburg.  After a brief stop in the City at Flight 151 the two of us hopped the L train to Williamsburg and  made a brief sojourn through the frigid temperatures to the venue.  When we settled down we had a few beers and at around 9:45, we went upstairs in the venue and prepared to catch a wonderful show.  To this day I had never seen Cat Power solely based on Arby’s previous reviews.  When we used to live at the NYU dorms we had several opportunities, but I had been discouraged by his warnings of the performer’s imminent breakdowns and general disappointing behavior.

Chan Marshall took the stage at around 10:30pm launching into a song which I did not recognize but nonetheless sounded like an old soulful blues tune.  She has a way of making every song sound like an old soulful blues tune.  Her second song was a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” which she certainly made sound like an old soulfil blues tune.  For the first two or three songs, Cat Power was more or less in clear view.  I’m not sure what happened after that.  She seemed to go backstage and request that the lights be dimmed, but after that point, Ms. Marshall was shrowded in mystery, an apparition obscured by a lack of spotlight and an array of colored fills that neither illuminated nor hinted at who might be performing.

That being said, we all knew who we were there to see and we certainly heard her voice.  It was the voice of a soulful angel breathing new life into songs like “The Dark End Of The Street,” “Fortunate Son”   and “She’s Got You” (made famous by Patsy Cline).  The concert went on, the band sounded great and Chan continued to belt out the tunes, but there was a certain oddity that accompanied not being able to see the person performing.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the singer was that anonymous and less engaged with the audience.

All the way from “Metal Heart” into favorites like “The Greatest” and “Lived In Bars” amidst some other covers, she more or less remained anonymous.  I was thrilled to be at the show, but I was confused.  Beauty was audible, but the connection just wasn’t there.  I had heard stories of stage fright and I guess not seeing the audience and not letting them see her was her way of compromise but I couldn’t help feel the show was incomplete.  At one point the shy chanteuse wandered into the audience and belted it out amongst the crowd, but it somehow felt cheap, like a compromise with her audience based on a dare.  There was a semi-thrill to see her directly in front of me, but I couldn’t help thinking she was just throwing people a bone before she slipped back under the cover of night.

In the end, I left with an odd feeling.  I had enjoyed the music, but was a little perplexed by the experience.  I like Cat Power, but if going to her performances are going to be this impersonal while trying to maintain this ruse of intimacy, I’m not sure my money isn’t better spent on her next album.


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