Posted in music on August 28, 2011

photo by Cesar Perdomo, words by Rachel Kowal

Cat Power @ Webster Hall
Cat Power

After a string of shows got canceled this weekend, I was glad that there was at least one that was unaffected by Irene: Cat Power. (Chan Marshall's advice for those living in "hurricane city"? "Don't sleep under a window.")

Friday evening's show at Webster Hall, Chan's second in a row at the NYC venue, began not with Xray Eyeballs (Thursday's opener), but the one-woman act, Vorhees. Though her music is relatively unknown, Dana Wachs has been involved in the scene for a number of years both through her job as a sound engineer at DC's club The Black Cat and through her work on the road with artists like Black Dice, MGMT, MIA, and yes, Cat Power.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a sound engineer, Wachs' music is heavily layered. Still in its beginning stages now, Vorhees dabbles with a number of influences. At its core, it's ambient and droney, but Wachs' chirpy, upbeat vocals recall 80s pop, and her beats bring a little hip-hop flavor.

After playing a handful of original songs, Wachs concluded her short 30-minute set with a Lindsey Buckingham cover and a few words of caution on the weekend's inclement weather.
__

Cat Power's backing band had already begun to play by the time Marshall walked onto the dimly lit stage. After a quick "hello" to the crowd, she grabbed the mic out of the stand and, dragging the chord behind her, retreated farther into the shadows where she kicked off the show with a couple of ballads, including a grim new song about alcohol, sleeping on the streets, and inescapable memories.

As if to draw as little attention to herself as possible, Marshall had dressed in all black, and her long bangs fell over eyes and covered half of her face. Periodically, she pulled at her clothes, clutching at both the collar of her shirt and her neck as if she were uncomfortable in her very skin despite receiving generous accolades from the crowd every few minutes. ("I love you!" "You're so beautiful!" people cried.)

Not one to bask in the spotlight, Marshall awkwardly shuffled back and forth, obviously favoring the far left and right to the center. Though she often had her back to the audience and hardly made eye contact with her praise-shouting fans, her nervous, self-conscious behavior was strangely intimate (in the way that someone who is confiding something extremely personal will rarely look you in the eye). Here was Chan Marshall in all her beautiful vulnerability. Somehow, her deep, smoky voice seemed even heavier and more world-weary live than recorded.

Though the music was largely subdued and melancholic, every few songs, the band let loose, and there were sudden moments of cacophonous instrumentation - electric guitar riffs, crashing drums.

After playing through a string of covers (from Jukebox) and new songs, Marshall closed the first portion of her set with a dramatic extended version of "Greatest," complete with flashing stage lights and a rowdy instrumental segment. She hardly got out the first few words of the song before the crowd interjected wild cheers. As the song stretched to eight minutes, Marshall simply walked off stage as the band continued to play. One by one, her band mates joined her until only a distorted melody remained to be repeatedly looped. The long wait definitely tested the patience of the audience, but no one seemed to move. (At this point, she had only played for about 50 minutes, or eight songs total.)

Finally after nearly fifteen minutes had passed, Marshall and the band returned to play nine additional songs. For the first time of the evening, Marshall joined in on guitar, at least for a couple of songs.

Between the heaviness of the songs themselves and Marshall's apparent unease, it was not the most uplifting show, but she did pick things up toward the end of the set and eventually made an odd request.

"Can you turn on the houselights? Like all of them?" The house obliged, leaving Marshall to sing the last song ("Don't Blame Me") to an audience bathed in bright lights as if born again. Then, after a series of odd bows, waves, and salutes, she walked away, again leaving her band mates to wrap up the song one by one.

So, was there a big breakdown? Well, no, not unless you count Marshall's periodic disappearances from the stage or the lengthy intermission. But despite the relative stability of her performances now, there remains a soul-stirring sadness in her voice and her delivery that in some ways is as difficult to bear as a show addled by an alcohol-induced haze of forgotten lyrics and on-stage crack-ups.

A video and the night's setlist below...

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Cat Power 8/26 setlist (new songs designated by asterisks. Titles are rough approximations.)
*Bully
Don't Explain (Billie Holiday cover)
Song to Bobby
Silver Stallion (Lee Clayton/The Highwaymen cover)
Lord, Help the Poor and Needy (Jessie Mae Hemphil cover)
*Real Life
*Brave Liar
The Greatest
- [long intermission] -
I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover)
*Cherokee
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
*unknown new song
*Let Me Go
*unknown new song
*Monster
*Ruin
I Don't Blame You

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Comments (54)

this show was fucking boooooooring.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 4:56 PM

This show seemed slow and rather boring at the time, and every moment since I was there it has grown like a redwood. It was a pretty special show, though you had to be in the right space.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 4:59 PM

Chan MEHshall

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:01 PM

I saw a bunch of girls get copies of the set list, one from Chan herself. And yet, still no set list up at setlist.fm and several gaps in this set list (above).

If you get a copy of the set list at a show, DON'T BE A FUCKING DICK! Post the fucking set list somewhere. For real.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:03 PM

5:03 is so mad he is going to break his macbook air...

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:06 PM

This is something we can all relate to http://youtu.be/hR_cTYuLY10 Bloomberg blew it. Hurricant Irene. Haha. Dan Deacon and James Murphy Two hummus barons

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:09 PM

5:06 trying to ride a meme-coat tail.
Please, don't. Grow some funk of your own, silly.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:11 PM

5:03

you are actually concerned with a cat power setlist, or a cp anything?

you need a cat nap and some chill time

she is past her prime

she has used up about 10 of her lives

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:22 PM

There is a website called setlist.fm and people go to it? Lulz....

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:24 PM

"For real."

5:03 it sounds like you need to find out what real music is

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:29 PM

Someone got a set list and failed to report back to the internet? How dare they!

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:33 PM

I heard she hinted at the possibility of her joining Biohazard.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:44 PM

I'm not looking for any stage meltdowns, but I do miss the days of "singer-songwriter" Cat Power as an alternative to "blues bandleader" Cat Power.

Maybe that's just me.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:44 PM

I don't miss any of her, at all, and I do not miss seeing you at brunchwave 5:44

If we knew you were a CP fan, we never would have allowed you into Juliette

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:48 PM

I cant wait for the "Biohazard" days!

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:50 PM

I only have time for Feist brunch.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 5:57 PM

now if Chen or Chan joined Broken Social Scene, now that would be cool

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 6:14 PM

she could stand to lose a few pounds.....

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 7:00 PM

^womyn hater!

Posted by Colin P. Fitz | August 28, 2011 7:13 PM

Friday Setlist

Bully
Don't Explain
Nico/Bobby
Silver Stallion
Lord Help
Real Life
Brave Liar
Greatest


I Wanna be your Dog
Cherokee
Dreams
Horizon
Let me Go
Monster
Woman of my Word
Run
Angelitos
Don't Blame You

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 7:38 PM

so.. three old songs, and five covers? i love Cat Power but that set is just awful. she has so many great songs and albums to draw off of, this is just a waste.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 7:44 PM

huge dissapointment

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:11 PM

yeah, the setlist could've been a little more dynamic but her performance of the Greatest was out of this world.

Posted by jessica | August 28, 2011 8:33 PM

no, no , no, it was a good show! great preview of her new material. Yes - a few times in the show i was hoping she would pick it up a bit, but hey, it's her show. I thought she was engaged - more so than usual, and she really gave the band some room to shine. And that version of The Greatest!!

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:45 PM

yeah, what a let down. I would much rather see a greatest hits package show, where I can make smarmy observations about how the versions I saw 5 years ago were so much better.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:54 PM

Broken Social Scene? Really? Hey 6:14, did the village you come from ever fill that open idiot slot from when you left?

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:56 PM

you cannot fuck with that version of the greatest she did... that was mind blowing.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:56 PM

Are you kidding me?!?!? What a fucking BAND!!!!

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 8:57 PM

I wouldn't just hit that, I would marry that fine lass. I would pay the price. I would crawl across the floor, over broken glass, uphill both ways, in the winter.

If only she could know this about me ....

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 9:00 PM

Wow, you guys are totally right. By the way, I've got tickets to see REM coming up, and MAN I sure hope they do forty minutes of Waylon Jennings covers! If I have to sit through ONE more rendition of Driver 8, Finest Worksong, Losing My Religion or any other song they played more than twice before I'm just gonna DIE. What am I paying all this money for, after all? I'm suuuuuuuuuucccccccchh a hipster!

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 9:18 PM

Bitch is gonna sing for Biohazard. Frohawk told me.

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 10:11 PM

Friday Setlist
Bully
Don't Explain
Nico/Bobby
Silver Stallion
Blipster/Mohawk
Lord Help
Real Life
Brave Liar
Greatest

I Wanna be your Dog
Cherokee
Dreams
Clown Shit
Horizon
Let me Go
Monster
Woman of my Word
Run
Angelitos
Don't Blame You

Posted by Anonymous | August 28, 2011 10:19 PM

Stopped listening after she died her hair and stopped doing drugs. Not because she died her hair and stopped doing drugs but because her new positive outlook on life caused her to cut her hair and stop doing drugs. Then her new positive outlook on life allowed her to write new shitty music. Happy people don't make good music. Plain and simple...

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 2:51 AM

8:56


did you not see the Feist - Broken Social Scene connection in the thread?

so now it is obvious a) you really do like Cat Power, and b) you are either from Queens or some midwest town. or even worse brooklyn.

whatever is lower than the Village Idiot, that's you bud

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 8:21 AM

Whoever said she needs to lose weight is a fucking blind asshole. But then, that's 99 percent of the regular posters on this site, so...

Her show wasn't for everyone, but there were moments of greatness.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 9:54 AM

massive let down friday. wish we could go back to the moon pix era cat power

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 10:05 AM

So glad I passed on this one. Some of the comments here confirmed my fears of another boring show. The last couple times I saw her live were terrible (esp at Terminal 5 a couple years ago). She just seemed to be spinning her wheels with all of these covers.

Don't get me wrong- she was amazing when she plays solo and when she hit Town hall like 5 years ago touring for The Greatest.

Jukebox is a pretty tough record to defend compared to her other albums and with those shows around that time, I feared she was all done.

But that said- happy that's playing new material. Excited to hear it, but some of these comments scare me. Sounds like the show was mixed between blindly devoted and fans like me who are waiting for something new. Here's hoping Chan puts out a great record and that her live show gets back on track (with a mix spanning her catalog, not heavy on covers). Her band is amazing, so if the material is there- there's still lots to look fwd to.

Wishful thinking.....

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 10:25 AM

I saw the thursday show and doubt I'll see her ever again. Love the music and the didn't mind the covers. Just sick of her attitude, she always seems upset about the sound. I've seen cat power a few times and its always hit or miss with her complains.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 11:27 AM

"difficult to bear" says it all. At least live.

I've seen her a few times and it's always been a gamble. I'm off her live shows...

The records still hold up well- esp Moon Pix, Greatest, Covers Record, and You Are Free. I like her covers and original stuff.

But live it's really ranged from great to embarrassing (more times than not).

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 12:23 PM

I went to Friday's show. So what if she doesn't want to be in the spotlight, and she took an unexpected intermission (which was clearly planned, with music on extended loop). She didn't falter once and was absolutely in control, professional and confident with her excellent band that she's stuck with for a few years now. She played for 2 hours and sounded great, what more do you want? The new material sounded amazing as did her new takes on her older songs. I could've done without some of the Jukebox-era covers, but overall it was an awesome show and I can't wait for the new Cat Power album.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 12:59 PM

I am by no means a fan. I never bought one of her albums, and only really knew a few cuts off of You Are Free. But, I will say that when I saw her on Friday night I felt like I was seeing something special, something intimate, something uncommon. The fact that I didn't know many songs made it all the more powerful - I didn't have any expectations.

And I will say this ... that this merry band of hipsters and haters find nothing but fault with a show that they may or may not have seen just makes me feel so good. I feel good because next time she comes around there will be more tickets available so that I can see her again.

And as many have noted, the band was really cracker jack. Really tight, really professional. And probably playing at a level that is understandably beyond the comprehension of the garden variety hipster fool.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 1:25 PM

8:21, you took over 12 hours and the best you could come up with is "I know you are but what am I"? Here's the news ... YOU FAIL! For your bad taste, lack of humor, and general bourgeois life, you are hereby banished to icanhascheezburger.com. You must leave now, and you may not come back. B'bye.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 3:46 PM

The new stuff sounded pretty good, but i always thought she was at her best when it was just her and a guitar or just her and a piano. She could've done a few songs solo. Sometimes you gotta give the people what they want, Chan.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 3:47 PM

I don't care how good a band is, please never refer to them as "cracker jack" again. Thanks.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 5:21 PM

cracker jack > clown shit

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 5:39 PM

lol 5:21 doesn't like cracker jack lol daddy would try to force the luscious carmel corn down his throat but he would have none of it lol cracker jack lol lol

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 5:40 PM

You're a real cracker jack at googling "internet is serious business image".

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 7:37 PM

I actually knew the image I wanted for you, sweetie, and I had to search for it as the cat came up before it. But I did use Goggle, you got me there, Jack The Cracker.

Posted by Anonymous | August 29, 2011 7:58 PM

I'm sure that the internet doesn't need or would not accept a reprimand and if one could be effectively issued I would surely do it now. Chan Marshall is a effing angel from heaven. I think the purity with which she delivers her art is of a different degree, a higher degree, that most people obviously can't grasp, at least the readers of this blog. But you're probably just posting shit to get a rise out of people. So in short I'll say this, anyone that was lucky enough to witness a cat power show should be happy, and if you weren't in a place, ie too worried about petty bs, to enjoy it thoroughly, well that sounds like a personal issue.

Posted by Heart attack man | August 29, 2011 11:49 PM

I heard she fucks Ted Leo. They're both clown shit so who gives a fuck?

Posted by Anonymous | August 30, 2011 1:21 AM

Ten years ago I'd be upset about no pics, but Chan hasn't been worth a wank session in a long time. I'd still do her, though. With my wiener.

Posted by Wank Session Guy | August 30, 2011 1:35 AM

Jim White drove all life in that show (as he usually does), especially that amazing rendition of the Greatest. Second set was a bore.

Posted by argentine13 | August 30, 2011 3:17 PM

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