Review and photos – Cat Power at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, Nov 2 2012
– review by Elana Shepert/photos by Kirk Chantraine
“I love you more,” replied Cat Power to an adoring fan at the beginning of her Friday night show at the Vogue Theatre. The crowd was rambunctious, antsy from waiting well over an hour since the end of the opening act. It would not be the last comment yelled from the audience in what would prove to be a very frustrating show.
When the lights finally dimmed, the crowd began to cheer; however, they were forced to wait even longer. Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm” blasted from the speakers, and Cat Power remained backstage for the whole song. Notoriously late for shows, she is known for an erratic on-stage presence, which has often been fuelled by excessive binge drinking.
When the set finally began, it started on a simple note. Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, stood bathed in a single blue light, a solo guitar accompanying her sultry voice. Her sound was haunting, textured with smokey tenderness and brooding depth.
While entranced by her delicate delivery, we were startled by the vicious onslaught of her band. Marshall’s group is talented; however, they are also very loud. Both drum and bass stifled her mesmerizing voice during a great deal of the set.
Most of the selections came from Sun, her ninth studio album. The new album, released in September, is different than her previous releases, and this was evident in her live show.
While some of her older material involves a solo guitar or piano, almost all her latest music involves a full band and a new, more upbeat sound. Many of these songs were accompanied by an intensely distracting laser show. At times, lights whipping through the audience completely blinded us, and it was impossible to focus on the music at all.
While most of the set felt like a rave, a few precious moments recalled Marshall’s earlier work. Midway through, she captivated the room with “Bully”, a rejected track off her new album. Much like the opening of the show, she stood in a single light, this time red, accompanied by a lone piano. Her delivery was heart-wrenching, and a chilling quiet filled the vacant moments between lines. Everyone was hanging on the sorrowful words.
Although Marshall captured a few good moments, her stage presence completely fell apart during her more energetic songs. Even her physical appearance reflected her musical redirection. Forget the bohemian damsel with the indie-rock bangs – the new Cat Power sported a leather jacket and a modified mohawk. She even tried to move like a rocker, but looked more like a mime trapped in a shaky box as she shifted her shoulders and hands awkwardly about. It was a strange sight to behold.
Although it was a weird performance, Marshall managed to maintain focus and make it through without a meltdown. Considering that she is nearly bankrupt, and suffering from a severe condition called angioedema, it is a miracle she performed at all. She has officially postponed her European tour to 2013 due to these circumstances.
At one point near the end show’s end, an exasperated fan yelled, “Play more of your old stuff! Please! Please!”, and was joined by a few others. Cat Power played a few old favorites, such as “I Don’t Blame You” and “The Greatest”, but the rest of her set was completely new material. While her new stuff is fun, it doesn’t offer the experience of her earlier work. And while the show had its moments, many fans left unsatisfied. Marshall has an evocative voice, and some of her songs are beautiful – but this was a poor performance.