Monday, October 30, 2006
This year has easily been the busiest and most media-exposed Chan Marshall has been since she started performing as Cat Power a dozen or so years back. It's seemed non-stop since the release of her seventh studio album, "The Greatest", back in January: The abrupt cancellation of the supporting full-band tour for "health reasons", its eventual rescheduling, the revealing New York Times piece, a solo tour, a job as 'the new face of Chanel Jewelry', and now a final tour with the Memphis Rhythm Band starting this Wednesday. Dozens of articles, interviews, live sessions, and media appearances, including tonight on Conan O'Brien.
As I wrote back in June after seeing her here in Boston, reports of her steadier and more confident live persona were not at all exaggerated, especially in the presence of that rock-solid backing band she'd pulled together. Hints of the old Chan showed during a short solo portion of the show, but it disappeared when the Memphis Rhythm Band came back out on stage. The night was an uplifting one, a word I certainly wouldn't have used for past shows, which ranged from slightly uncomfortable to emotionally draining, yet still somehow beautiful. It seemed as if those shaky days were long behind her... until she appeared solo at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston early last month.
It was the second show of the night in the museum's Remis Auditorium, after an earlier one that by all accounts went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately whatever comfort level she had with the monitor mix didn't carry over to the later set... Chan's always been particularly sensitive to sound problems, preferring to bail on songs rather than toughing things out, and did exactly that after starting a cover of "House of the Rising Sun". Some adjustments, and another attempt... still no go. She eventually moved on to her own "Love & Communication", coming close to making it through before stopping yet again. More sound issues, tuning problems, and getting somehow distracted by the stage-side soundman during "Wild Is The Wind" (who had no choice but to stare at her in case she indicated a level change, poor guy)... halfway through the show it felt like she hadn't made it all the way through a single song, although the recordings below reveal it wasn't as bad as all that. There was palpable tension in the room, especially after she abruptly left the stage for a few minutes for a self-proclaimed pee break. More than a few of us wondered if she would return.
But she did, and while the apologizing continued, the technical problems (or perceptions) disappeared. As she continued to sit behind her piano or strum her guitar, the awkwardness evaporated and the sparse beauty of her songs took over. When she'd add another "I'm sorry", some in the crowd let her know that everything was ok... and the applause were loud, the cheers enthusiastic, we became one big support group trying to hold her up. In the end, she pulled out of what could have been a tailspin to simply soar. Emotionally draining, indeed.
I'd actually considered not sharing this one up, or at least particular parts of it. But I fall on the side of the full experience, and I think the show as a whole is worth hearing, warts and all. It was a bear to edit down, and I did make one little chop, offering the original interrupted version of "Wild Is The Wind" alongside an edited one that removes the break.
Getting good pictures at this show was near impossible, as flash photos would have intruded on the mood even more, and the lighting was appropriately low. Glad I got a shot of one of the few times she smiled that night, though. Here's the solo set...
Live at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
2nd show on Tuesday, September 5th, 2006
01. Intro / House Of The Rising Sun (technical troubles)
02. Love & Communication (more tech trouble)
03. Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Sandy Denny) /
04. Wild Is The Wind (Nina Simone) / edit
05. Living Proof
06. House Of The Rising Sun (traditional)
07. tuning troubles
08. Wolf Among Wolves (Will Oldham)
10. Ramblin' Man (Hank Williams)
11. "i'm sorry y'all"
12. Christopher's Walkin'
13. Paths Of Victory (Dylan)
14. How I Feel
15. Time, The Great Healer / Maybe Not
16. I Don't Blame You
17. John John
19. Empty Shell
20. Satisfaction (Stones) / Naked If I Want To
22. Where Is My Love?
23. Could We
24. Good Woman
25. Anything But Love
Some Cat Power links...
the fine print... If anyone has an issue with this live set being made available, just say the word (contact info in the 'nac faq). 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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