“Who run this shit today? GOOD MUSIC. Who run this shit today?! GOOD MUSIC,” is what blasted through the speakers of Grand Central right before Cat Power would take to the stage. It was Kanye West, and if you ask me, he’s onto something. Good music is pretty important right now, and though the loud and aggressive hip hop and rap playing while we waited for Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) to grace us with her vocal presence could seem ill fitted, at least the closing statement was an idea we could all agree with. Good music is great, and we were about to get a hearty dose of it, one way or another.
The band (sans Chan) took to their instruments and allowed some introductory chords to creep slowly to the surface of our attention, and gradually, the opening chords to “Cherokee” sauntered in, and so did Chan Marshall-sporting a fresh bleach blonde mohawk- and the crowd went wild. Then without hesitation, she sang soulfully into the microphone and produced what I will confidently say is one of the most beautiful and distinct voices of the last 15 years and today. That’s something you can’t just dismiss. There really is no one like her, and those pipes and that soul are what will continue to sell records and tickets across the country. But despite the crowds overwhelming support, Chan immediately grew concerned with the way the sound was being operated, and signaled frantically towards the sound operators. With technical problems from the beginning, an already fidgety Chan became restless. “WE LOVE YOU ANYWAYS CAT POWER!!” shouted a couple of mega fan girls, and Chan smiled at the encouragement while she fiddled away at her vocal looping pedals.
Something that really stood out to me amongst the clutter of onstage antics and last minute set changes. It was the undying support from the fans huddled around the stage, and the way she received them. Sure, she could look uncomfortable at times, occasionally turning to her band while she sang, but she was also extremely personable, and the crowd totally ate up all her little mannerisms. It was a touch of an Ariel Pink Coachella meltdown, (look it up if you’re not familiar), but more charming. And people still adored Ariel Pink! So same goes with this gig, it made the show special and something to remember. Though she may have been a little self conscious on stage, she still was as friendly as ever, frequently leaning into the crowd to chat between songs. Considering the despondent ambiance of many of her past records, to see a smiley Cat Power was a pretty great thing if you ask me.
Now, I’m not trying to romanticize this show for you, shying away from the slightly off kilter way she carried herself on stage. It’s true, she may not be one of the most outrageous performers, and no, she didn’t do cartwheels or stage dives into the crowd. But that hardly would’ve been suitable anyways. I mean, have you listened to her music? It can be some pretty gloomy stuff, but all the while extremely engaging and beautiful. Same goes with her live show. Chan didn’t try to become someone else. She didn’t put on a costume and wear a facade of the overtly confident pop star, because that’s not who she is. At one point she asked for the house lights to be turned on so that she could get a good look at the crowd, and later sheepishly joked a command to turn the stage lights off. She didn’t shy away from the fact that yeah, performing live can be pretty fucking unnerving. And why should she? It made her human. And it’s not like the music was being spared, technical difficulties or not, she sounded great.
I probably could’ve painted a terrible picture of an inebriated rock star moseying about the stage without a care. But that doesn’t seem very honest. Because if you were there, you felt the power of her rusty vocal chords, and you felt the gratitude she had to be there. And if you weren’t as perceptive, then the repeated “Fucking thank you very much” should’ve let you in on that. When people ask the concert goers how the Cat Power show was, they will have a story to tell. And whether it’s an anecdote about how, “she totally talked at me and smiled while I took pictures” or a music nerd’s analysis of her pedal board problems, it will be something special from the rest. And what’s wrong with that? I, personally, will take an out of the ordinary show over a glitch-less show any day. At least we’ll have the memory.
“I Don’t Blame You”
“Back in the Day”
“Peace and Love”
“Always on My Own”
“Nothing But Time”
“Wanna Be Your Dog”