Cat Power, "I Don't Blame You"
Cat Power, "I Found A Reason"
Cat Power, "He Was A Friend of Mine"
I had the good fortune of attending the Cat Power show this past Saturday at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan. I try not to engage in hyperbole, so that when I say something was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, people know this is a big deal. I've been trying to think of the perfect words to convey how great this night was, but I haven't felt up to the challenge. I'm probably still not up to it, but there is something to be said for relevance.
Let's see, first off, it was my first show at Town Hall, a beautiful, old theater that seems best suited for plays and musicals. I've always been of the school that music should be heard standing up in a dingy, hot, sweaty club. Perhaps reflecting my increasing age, I found this seated show in a beautiful building amazing, a great change of pace, perfect for quieter music. We got there around 8:30. Our seats were up front, thanks to the speedy Internet finger of MC, four rows back, stage left. This is the closest I've been for anything, at least since I saw Rent in the second row at the Merriam Theater. What's that? Yes, that's a musical, popular with teen girls. Men who can admit that? The new black.
Anyway, things got started around 9:30, as the backing band, The Memphis Rhythm Band, took their places on stage. They preceded to play two songs, including what sounded like an instrumental version of the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree." The band was bigger than expected, with two backup singers, a keyboardist, two horns, three violins, one guitar, one bass and drums. The music was a bluesy, R&B sound, louder and more rocking than the music on The Greatest.
Chan Marshall soon came on stage, opening with "The Greatest." I'm not good at remembering sequence of songs, as I never remember to bring a pen and paper to jot that info down. So, all I'll say is that this was one of the best shows I've ever seen, cementing Cat Power's place in my heart forever. I'm sure that everyone has heard the stories of her erratic behavior at shows, her stage fright, her eccentricites. What we got Saturday was a talented, brilliant woman, one who gets nervous and is unable to hide those nerves, playing with her hair, doing weird dances, waving to friends in the audience. Her nervous tics were endearing, what I imagine I would do to take my mind off of the large crowd hanging on my every word. Then, when it was her turn to sing, she would completely stun me, her voice leaving me spellbound the entire night.
The concert can be broken up into three parts, starting with the full band doing material from The Greatest. Then, in what seemed like the encore, Chan did a solo set on the piano, doing covers of Nina Simone's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes," "House of Rising Sun" and others. Unbelievably, the whole band came back out for a few more songs, before Chan did one last song on the piano to thank the audience, making this a nearly two hour show with the too many encores to count. The crowd gave more than one standing ovation, so I know that I was not the only one blown away.
I won't keep going on and on here, as you know my love for Cat Power already. I do want to add one little story to the mix, as I think it shows that Chan shares these feelings and might even read Pound for Pound. After the band came back out for the second set of encores and played, they all lined up at the front of the stage for a bow. The show was over, the band was leaving the stage. Suddenly, Marshall walked to the piano to play one last song to thank everyone. What did she play? That's right, my favorite song, "I Don't Blame You." Coincidence? I don't think so either. I mean, the show is over, she plays one quick number that's from an older album that just so happens to be my favorite song.
She has a few more dates left in June and July, including tomorrow night in D.C. Go buy her new album, which is definitely gonna be on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Chan, holler at your bol, as I've set up June as your month in the calendar and I'd like to generally establish Pound for Pound as a safe place for you to come. More to come on her.