live review

Cat Power

Cat Power

May 14 2016
Paramount, Wellington

Reviewed by Stefanie Keyworth
17th May 2016

The last time I saw Chan Marshall, her hair was wild and she was onstage with her band supporting the electronic-tinged album Sun. Every song from the record was represented that night with little room for the stark sadness of her early albums or the polished soul of The Greatest or Jukebox. This time around the premise was very different: solo with no album to promote. Only three songs were drawn from her most recent albums, begging the question of whether or not those songs translate in a solo setting, or if her next album will be a truer sequel to You Are Free, rather than another stylistic jump. Those missing the weight of Marshall's earlier work were in for a treat as Marshall took the stage and silenced the crowd with her voice and guitar.

Marshall's sparse but effective guitar playing lead her from song-to-song in a long medley form, leaving few opportunities for eager applause. She mesmerised as she lead from 'Fool' (the first of many You Are Free selections) to her cover of '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', her already haunting voice enhanced with the effect of two microphones. From there she moved to the piano where she continued to segue between songs with an unanticipated flair... even if the objective was to lead her left hand to her waiting tea.

Self consciousness crept in when Marshall halted 'I Don't Blame You' to request changes to her sound levels. This prompted an audience member to assure her that she was "connecting with us on a spiritual level!". The abrupt gesture was seemingly appreciated - until the loud voice returned with patronising impatience before being fortunately stubbed out by a true representative of the audience and the words: "Please leave". I hurt my palms clapping in response.

Marshall struggled to regain her composure following the interruptions, opting to awkwardly talk to the audience between songs lest she perform them without the deliberation they require: Intense songs in a tense atmosphere. It's no surprise that the emotional depth of her earlier songs come with a price; it's unfortunate that such an affecting performance still weighs her down. Fortunately, the performance outshone the anxiety.

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