Monday, June 12, 2006
Getting tickets to see Cat Power (aka Chan-pronounced-Shawn Marshall) in person is a risky proposition. The show might not happen (witness her cancelled tour this past February), and even if it does, you may not actually be able to see her (years ago, at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, she insisted that every single light in the place be turned off). She's a sensitive soul, often fidgety, very particular about her live environment, often stopping songs mid-stride for reasons known only to herself. Some people can't stand it ("saw her once... painfully awkward... never again"), but others know what to expect and embrace her quirkiness as part of her charm. For me, if the stars align, just being in the same room with that voice for awhile can be pure magic. (also magical... the last minute tickets. Thanks again, John.)
We saw a couple different sides of Cat Power this past Wednesday when she performed with the Memphis Rhythm Band at the Berklee Performance Center here in Boston. Mostly the so-called 'new-and-improved' live persona that's been written about recently, far less of the unsteady girl who looks like she'd rather be anywhere but on stage. A lot of that, I'm sure, is owed to the rock-solid 12-piece band (fronted by steady studio-vet Teenie Hodges) that backed her up. In the constraints of structured songs that she can't call a halt to, she let herself go... dancing, smiling, waving her arms, strutting all over the stage. She was a whole new frontwoman, free of guitar strap and piano bench for most of the show, except when the band exited and she showed us brief signs of her fragile self.
For those few solo songs, whether behind the grand piano or strumming softly, we got a whole different show, and not just musicially. Beautifully mutated covers, abrupt throat clearing, stops, starts, and momentarily forgotten parts. She even changed her own lyrics, revealingly proclaiming that she does not hate herself, does not want to die ("I hate myself and I want to die" - from 'Hate', off her latest, 'The Greatest'). A more straightforward declaration of the transformed Chan came at the end of the show, when she held her cup high in the air, pointed at it, and yelled "Sober!... It's tea!" to the crowd. The applause got louder, and her smile got wider.
Here, for a few days, is Cat Power & the Memphis Rhythm Blues Band's wonderful Boston performance...
& the Memphis Rhythm Band
Live at the Berklee Performance Center
Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
02. Soul Serenade (instrumental)
03. The Greatest
04. Living Proof
05. Lived In Bars
06. Could We
07. Empty Shell
09. The Moon
11. Where Is My Love?
12. Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Sandy Denny)
13. Wild As The Wind (Nina Simone)
14. House Of The Rising Sun (traditional)
16. Hit The Road Jack (Ray Charles)
17. Love & Communication / Acapella #
18. All I Have To Do Is Dream (Everly Brothers)
The Boston Globe reviewed the show, as did the Boston Herald (and the Herald, of course, wins the 'cheesiest headline' award), and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote up her appearance there last month. The tour continues on Wednesday in Washington, DC, and she's on stage on Bonnaroo in Tennessee on Friday before heading off to London.
update from the comments: The Phoenix reviewed the Boston show as well, with the best of the headlines.
And as an added treat, here's Chan rockin' out with the Flaming Lips on a cover of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' in September, 2004 on Austin City Limits. Pure gold.
the fine print: If anyone has an issue with this live set being made available, just say the word (email link on left). Recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav and then edited to 192kbps mp3s. Mp3s are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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