Two days before announcing via Instagram that she may have to cancel her upcoming European tour “due to bankruptcy & [her] health struggle with Angioedema,” indie singer Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall) played an uneven, but still entertaining, show at the Vic Theatre in Lakeview on Sunday. The start and finish to the 80-minute set were shaky, but what came in between was reason enough to attend.
First, an OxFam representative greeted ticket-holders at the door at the suggestion of Marshall, asking them to sign a petition supporting small-scale farmers and the stabilization of food systems. This made me appreciate the likable Marshall even more.
“Chicago, Chicago, let’s have a good time, Chicago,”she wooed the audience in a singsong, raspy voice. Perhaps the early raspiness and frequent sips of tea from a mug between songs foreshadowed what was to come.
Yesterday, Cat Power confirmed via Twitter that the “European tour is on. Without stage presentation.” The stage’s aesthetically pleasing backdrop displayed images of clouds, a psychedelic-looking sun radiating purples, pinks, and oranges, and hieroglyphs during different songs.
During the first two songs, “Cherokee” and “Sun” (both from September 2012’s Sun, her first album in six years), the instrumentals from Marshall’s four-person band, which includes two drummers, drowned out her vocals. She didn’t exude energy or confidence, but the crowd still enjoyed itself and gave Marshall the time she seemed to need to acquaint herself with the stage. Even so, Marshall was the standout of the show, not her band.
During the third song, “3, 6, 9,” also from the well-crafted new album (she nearly performed Sun in its entirety), Marshall’s strong vocals broke through, and remained for the majority of the show. Seeing Marshall so “in her element”was exhilarating, and the vibe of the audience quickly shifted from excitement mixed with disorientation to complete admiration. A man next to me, who had previously been standing still or taking pictures, put away his camera and started dancing. Finally—this is what we’d come for.
By the sixth song, “Manhattan,” Marshall was shuffling across the stage, winking at the audience, and howling. As she sang, “Don’t look at the moon tonight/ You’ll never be never be never be Manhattan,”she pointed towards the sky and looked upwards. The spunky entertainer with the platinum blonde, feathery mohawk hairdo came to life.
Soon after her breakthrough, as Marshall covered Pedro Infante’s “Angelitos Negros,”one enamored audience member sighed, “Oh my goodness.”The rest of the audience had to laugh in agreement—the smoky a capella performance in Spanish was beautiful. She smiled radiantly as she nailed another new song, “Silent Machine.”
While she excited fans by performing old favorites like “The Greatest”and “I Don’t Blame You,” the focus of Cat Power’s show was promoting Sun, and in that she succeeded.
She did silly things, like lighting incense and waving it around on stage. Marshall also announced, “As a grown adult I want to say I fucking thank you. I fucking thank you for coming.”
By the end of the set, her fiery momentum dwindled—she coughed frequently, checked her watch, and even yawned. It was no surprise that she didn’t perform an encore to her inconsistent performance.