Photo by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath
Cat Power’s music has been the perfect soundtrack to many stressed days, sad days, super happy sunshine days. Camping music, bath-time music, driving music- the times when you really need the music to be…sacred. Her songs, her voice, her vulnerability, raw emotionality and instability- all of that vibrates on my frequency.
Saturday August 19th, Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) offered a powerfully intimate, emotionally candid set of music for an enrapt audience of fans, many of who seemed to feel much the same as I do about this uncompromising, brilliant artist. The tiny, gritty Marquis theater provided the perfect space for the kind of ritualistic soul baring that Cat Power offered her audience.
Opening with the hauntingly sparse “Werewolf” the artist appeared solo with acoustic guitar, entirely unadorned by backing musicians or pretense. She moved methodically through a set of music that leaned heavily on the essential 2003 album “You Are Free,” material well-suited to the solitary performance setting that she has chosen.
Cat Power is known to be a mercurial and sometimes unstable live presence. The melancholy that saturates her music clearly reflects an artist of vast sensitivity, which has, at times in her career, manifested itself in uneven and difficult performances. The Marquis Show had its moments of emotional tension but in this case, they added to the overall experience of the show.
At one point in the show, she stopped singing to ask someone in the front row why they had paid money to stand in the front of a concert and carry on a conversation during the performance. “When I go to shows,” she said “I’m totally locked in on what’s happening on stage, I want to understand all of it, and you have to pay attention. I go to shows to get away from conversations.” After suffering through years of shows where the drunks will simply not shut up, I deeply appreciated her brash honesty and the way she turned an uncomfortable moment into a teachable one.
Midway through the set, Cat Power transitioned from acoustic guitar to solo piano and laid bare a collection of laudanum-paced, deeply felt songs- highlighted by the haunting grace of “Names” and a powerfully mournful rendition of Bette Midler’s ode to tortured love, “The Rose.”
“Thank you for not making me feel like a crazy person as I’m trying to do this thing- to be who I am. I hope you get to do this in your lives too,” she imparted as a farewell to the blissed-out fans. As I floated out into the warm, bright night of Larimer Street, I felt a powerful gratitude for getting to share a space with an artist who feels so deeply and keeps having the courage to share her music and her truth.