One of these days, I'll call it quits and decide that I can't see any more Cat Power shows. Cat Power, a.k.a. Chan Marshall, is, of course, notorious for her onstage meltdowns and erratic performances. As someone who loves her voice and her songs, I often find myself defending her and claiming that she doesn't deserve that reputation. In fact, of the six shows I've seen, half of them have been just fine and even rapturous. OK, that might not be the best track record, but the good shows have been so amazing that they cancel out the bad. The show tonight was definitely one of her more professional appearances, but I'm not sure that made it a good one.
Cat Power, Swedish American Hall, Feb. 19. 2005: Chan played all by herself this time. She came onstage with a guitar, and a baby grand piano was set to the side. Her first song was on guitar, but she immediately switched to the piano for a long medley. This would turn out to be her modus operandi for the rest of the night: playing numerous songs in a row, switching instruments, then switching back. I could identify only 6 or 7 songs, and I couldn't tell if the others were covers or new songs. Throughout the evening, she also played long instrumental passages, presumably looking for a chord progression or melody that she wanted to sing to. As always, her voice was beautiful and smoky, and the crowd was worshipful, if also a bit confused as to when they could clap or cheer. The songs I recall were: Moonshiner, I Don't Blame You, Maybe Not, He War, Satisfaction. Someone requested Nude as the News, and she started it on guitar but didn't sing it. Someone else shouted out for I Found a Reason, but she claimed to not know how to play it.
Chan's detractors often make fun of her "schtick," and fans such as myself are quick to defend her and her talents. Though I've seen her put on really bad shows, I've also seen her hold the audience's attention and leave them wanting much, much more. Tonight, I'm sad to say, was merely solid. Maybe it had something to do with my crappy seat on the side, but I found myself wanting to check the time frequently throughout her performance. I don't think anyone expects a Cat Power show to be a scripted, by-the-book gig, but even I grew tired of her dawdling.
Right now, if given the chance, I'd probably go see another Cat Power show. But it would be with some reluctance, and I definitely wouldn't recommend the experience to friends unless they were really curious. :(