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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
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January 19, 2007
So Chan Marshall's transformation from unpredictable, unstable performer to confident entertainer has been widely noted at this point, but before she stopped off at the Fillmore in San Francisco on her latest tour I still didn't really know what to expect. It had been a good 7 or 8 years since I caught my last Cat Power show, back when she was in full back-to-the audience, hair-in-the-face solo performer mode, stopping in the middle of songs and leaving the audience to wonder if she'd manage to finish a whole set without breaking down on stage. The possibility of such displays could be seen as putting the audience in somewhat of an uncomfortably voyeuristic position, but it also offered a kind of emotionally raw connection and immediacy that expressed the intimacy of the material. Not to nostalgize, however; the new Cat Power, clean and sober and backed up by a passel o' studio slicks, is a whole different show, and that ain't a bad thing.

For instance, the new Cat Power's got bastketfulls of presence, which was evident as soon as she took the stage. After an extended intro from the Memphis Rhythm band that served to build up anticipation in the audience (and causing at least a few audible speculations as to whether or not she'd show), Ms. Marshall took the stage and immediately charmed the pants off everyone, starting by graciously accepting flowers from audience admirers and continuing on through busting truly endearing stage moves during the set, air drumming and karate kicking and doing the funky chicken. The funky chicken! And she brought banter, too, chatting with the audience about the effect of the Fillmore's lighting on the appearance of her breasts (positive) and modestly poking fun at her own dancing, inevitably illiciting sympathy, encouragement and many I Love You's from the audience.

The bulk of the evening focused on jams from The Greatest, maximizing the Rhythm Band's contribution. At the best points in the show Marshall pretty much had me convinced that she's the new Dusty Springfield. (White) girl's got soul- it was there in her voice all along, but the songs from The Greatest highlight what a powerful singer she truly is. The aformentioned studio slicks definitely aided in the R&B cred department, effecting the biggest element of distance from her earlier sound. That's cool and all; there's a lot to be said for the formidable talent of lifer session dudes, and the use of that talent on the The Greatest is a huge element in the heaps of praise the album's garnered. Memphis Rhythm Band guitarist Teenie Hodges was the guy who co-wrote "Here I Am, Come and Take Me" with Al Green (!) and played on some of Green's best recordings in the 70's. With that in mind, I felt kinda bad making quips about "Cat Power & the Saturday Night Live Band," but before she took the stage, they all took turns ripping off some seriously smoooove solos - sax, keys, guitar, violin, drums, trumpet, and oh yes, bass! - to the palpable delight of a sizable contingent of the audience (possibly related, possibly not noteable: a sizable contingent of the audience was also really, really stoked to be at the early show, over before 9pm). Pro gear, pro attitude. It all added up to further support Marshall's budding soul diva(ish) tendencies, but I can't say I wasn't a bit relieved when she performed much of the second half of the set accompanying herself on piano and guitar.

This second half consisted primarily of an extended set of covers, an expected part of the Cat Power live experience amongst an evening of unexpectedness. The highlight was her truly transformed version of my favorite Hank Williams song, "Ramblin' Man." Haunted and haunting, her rendition slowly stretched out almost unrecognizable verses, before recoiling and delaying the ultimate gratification of the chorus. She also covered Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." Get it? Cat Power is fun now.

Her cover versions exist in the best folk tradition of molding pre-existing material into something new and unique, with lyrics added and subtracted and changed to further mark the song as the perfomer's own. It's just, I don't know, I like Cat Power songs. That one half of that one song from You Are Free sure sounded nice. It would have been neat to hear more.

Not to complain too much though, any reservations I had were thoroughly compensated for by the overall cognitive dissonance of seeing the woman whose What Would the Community Think record provided a constant soundtrack to slightly-post-teenage moping benders shake her groove thang in earnest joy. If Chan Marshall can cheer the fuck up, I guess I got no excuses! On her next tour she'll be playing with "The Dirty Delta Blues Band," which will include Jim White. That could mean a sound a bit more familiar to fans of records like Moon Pix, but who knows? The new Cat Power may be quite a different bird from the tender indie engenue of yore but the element of unpredictablility certainly hasn't been left behind, it's just taken on a feel-good tone.

SEE ALSO: www.catpowerthegreatest.com
SEE ALSO: www.matadorrecords.com

--
Marcy Saude
When she isn't writing post-Marxist critiques of video art or psychoanalytical interpretations of femininity in horror films, Marcy Saude finds spare moments for rock criticism.

See other articles by Marcy Saude.

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