For the first half of her set, Chan Marshall (the woman we all know as Cat Power) acted as if she could barely tolerate being on stage. She didn't say anything between songs, looked at the ground without making eye contact with anyone in the audience, and at one point, actually turned her back to the audience and stood behind a couple of speakers as if she were hiding from us. Plainly, Marshall isn't into theatrics. And from the nondescript outfit she was wearing, I'm really not sure I'd have recognized her if I saw her walking down the street. But watching what was happening onstage obviously wasn't the point. Her voice stands alone, and adding anything else to the mix other than a band (an awesome band, I might add) would have been a distraction. (more photos after the jump)
Cat Power played Marymoor Park with The Pretenders on Thursday, August 27. Erika Hobart reviews The Pretenders right over here.
Frankly, if she'd wanted to stand behind speakers and sing the entire time, I wouldn't have minded so long as she stayed onstage for more than 20 minutes. She didn't. Halfway through the show, she hopped off the stage and walked up and down the aisles of chairs to serenade people in the (somewhat older) audience -- one stout little grandma in a white, flowy blouse wanted a high five, which Marshall bestowed upon her, still singing, with a shy smile. Still, the only words coming out of her mouth were in songs; she didn't actually say anything to anyone that I'm aware of. That same little grandma later flashed first a peace sign, then a fight the power fist, to Marshall as she made her way up and down the aisles. It was adorable. I wish I'd gotten a better photo of it. ABut here's her in the crowd (and note the blonde woman's rapt expression. Anyone else think there was a lot of tie-died clothing present?)
At a certain point, when we couldn't see her, it felt as if hers was the omniscient voice of God booming down from the heavens to reassure us all that the world is not altogether a wicked place. Then her little face would pop back up from among the aisles, and she was back to being a skinny girl with a powerful set of pipes. And oddly enough, Marshall seemed much more at ease out among the crowd than she had on stage. Perhaps she should sing this way at all of her shows.
I can't talk about this show without mentioning once more how great her band was. They did a great job with the blues numbers that were the focus of this tour, but they also did an excellent job with Marshall's cover songs -- I think I liked Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" and "Can't Get No Satisfaction" best. The only song I didn't totally love was "I Don't Blame You," because it was a different arrangement and melody that I liked less than the original version, which is one of my all time favorite Cat Power songs. But I also don't blame Marshall, or any artist, for playing around with a song they've been singing the same way for years. It must get boring. But Marshall could sing the ABCs and it would still be totally absorbing. And even though the Pretenders proceeded to blow me the fuck away 45 minutes later, I really hope the next time Marshall comes to town will be on her own headlining tour with the exact same band -- and that she feels comfortable enough to hop on down off the pedestal and sing among us again.