Last Night: Cat Power at the Warfield

Categories: Music

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Cat Power
April 15, 2008
The Warfield
Review by Jennifer Maerz
Photos by Gretchen Robinette
Better Than:
All those times Chan Marshall couldn’t get through a show without curling up into a ball.

Can we just call off the hot messes for a while? Sure, there were years when seeing your idols break down on stage was kinda silly fun. But lately the ladies have just been too much -- between Britney and Winehouse and Lindsey, we’ve heard all too much about the singer who can’t handle the stage. Better then to make like Meg White and cancel the tour completely than throw all your neuroses and anxieties into the public sphere. Or even better yet, work through them to the degree that you can perform a disaster free show, as Cat Power proved could be done last night at the Warfield.

I’d avoided seeing Cat Power live until now, in part because the unscripted drama sounded like it made for a really uncomfortable show experience. Stories of her curling up in a ball, breaking shows off early, and otherwise breaking down have long preceded her music. So I waited, and Chan Marshall worked through enough demons so that now, while the tabloids trail all the young divas getting sloppy, the weirdest elements of a Cat Power show are more quirky than catastrophe.

Sure, last night she had a fair amount of conferences with someone at the side of the stage, but they were all brief -- and in one case produced a roadie with a fan, who plugged in an industrial sized blower to cool her off a bit. And sure, she dragged out the encore with lighting directions that included flooding the balconies all the way to “the things that look like street lights.” But overall Marshall seemed stable, her antics secondary to that heavy, sultry voice that envelops the room, the main attraction being focused where it should be, on her incredible talent as a singer.

The set list stuck mostly with covers – this being the tour for Jukebox, she gave those same tracks the Cat Power makeover, giving the show a monotonous feel at times as the songs started to blend a bit. The best renditions live mirrored her finest recorded tracks -- “New York New York” and Patsy Cline’s stinger, “She’s Got You.” Her encore of the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Been Loving You” was another killer, as Marshall dragged out the drama in the song with facial contortions that match the emotional conflict in the song. But the fans who wanted to hear Cat Power’s greatest hits had to settle for just a few, the best being “The Greatest” and “The Moon,” saved for the encore (the latter song sung into the mic inside a bouquet of white flowers a fan threw her way).

Overall, Marshall put pent up anxieties into acting out the lyrics of one cover after the next, letting someone else’s words hold the burden of discomfort for once, and letting the packed club focus on the skills that brought them before Cat Power in the first place.

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