Cat Power Live

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I saw Cat Power play in D.C. last night and it ranks with some of the strangest experiences I've ever had. I knew when I bought the tickets that I might very well encounter her on a bad night and that she would walk out or whatever. But I figured I'd take the chance.
The show started out great- I was happy to see she was backed by a full band- a drummer, guitarist, piano player and a woman who played violin, keyboards and did backing vocals.
They started off with a song I don't know and then went into what is probably my favorite from You Are Free- Werewolf. I was so happy there was a violin player because that's what makes the song really. Werewolf was beautiful, but by the end it kind of sputtered to a close and the first sign of awkwardness filled the room.
The band went right into American Flag from Moon Pix (my favorite from that album) and here's where things got really strange. Towards the middle, everything started sounding disjointed, the rhythm got thrown off and Chan got out of her chair and walked toward the back of the stage. I thought "This is it-she's going to leave" but she just fiddled with an amp or something for a while while the band kind of stood there half-playing their instruments, half wondering what the hell to do with themselves. Chan eventually came and sat back down at her chair and the song again sputtered to a close.
Things again picked up for great renditions of Fool and Good Woman, the latter of which was especially stunning to hear live with the violinist and backing vocals.
I Don't Blame You sounded quite different from the studio version, played with a small keyboard and refashioned with a jittery stop-start quality.
Chan played at least four other songs with the band that I didn't recognize. Between songs, she seemed rather drunk, though I could be totally wrong. Regardless, she has an extremely eccentric personality onstage that is either a result of extreme nervousness or just plain weirdness. She would often mumble something about her band members or say something weird like, "Today was a strange day. The past few days have been strange. Strange days. D-a-z-e," perhaps referring to the war? At one point, she stopped briefly to smoke a cigarette and was very chit-chatty, which I found surprising, given her reputation for stage fright. She would often click her tongue into the mic and repeatedly asked the person at the sound board to add more reverb to the mic or adjust the volume on whatever instrument she was playing.
For the second part of the show the band left the stage and Chan did some songs alone on the piano. Half of You was beautiful as was a perfectly rendered Names. Hearing her play live now, I can say that Chan's voice truly is amazing- she doesn't treat it at all on her studio albums; what you hear on record is what you hear live and the way it emits from her mouth is incredible to watch and hear.
When she played Maybe Not, the awkwardness returned. She started and stopped a few times, trying to get the volume on the piano right and she kept fiddling with the mic, unable to get it in the proper position. She also confessed humorously that she had to pee. Once the song started, it was almost as if she was teasing us- she would play beautifully for a verse, then disrupt the song with an arpeggio and ask for the volume to be fixed, then resume the song, and interrupt it again. Towards the end of the song she broke into a particularly harrowing part in which she added new lyrics including a line "help me" or something like that.
After a few more songs I didn't recognize, some of which were covers, she gave up on the piano and did some songs with just her and a guitar (which I didn't recognize either). By then, she seemed to be slipping up more and more. She was almost done and I had to go to catch the metro so I didn't see if she did an encore or what.
I can't say this was a very good show- I wanted to like it more than I actually do, but I don't regret going and I don't really don't blame Marshall for the problems she has onstage. Watching her reminded me of myself to an extent- I can write a fine essay but ask me to do an oral presentation in front of a class and I come across as an idiot who stumbles over words and is disorganized and nervous. Marshall can create a stunning album in the studio that approaches perfection but in front of an audience she seems to have trouble harnessing her skills and presenting them without some level of difficulty. I see nothing wrong with this- You could say that she just shouldn't tour if she can't handle it, but that's not really fair- she doesn't have to tour, but she is somewhat obligated to her fans to perform and when she gets it right, the results are incredible.

By the way- If I eavesdropped correctly, I was standing right behind William Bowers from Pitchfork and he didn't seem to be enjoying himself.

lou (lou), Sunday, 23 March 2003 22:20 (twenty years ago) link

saw her live on leeds once. she got nervy and started working out other poeple's songs and getting people to name them. i got one and she mover her hair from her eyes and looked right at me and said "yeah!". ia lmost turned to dust, god help the world if she ever realised what she can do to a man with a flick of the hair.

matthew james (matthew james), Sunday, 23 March 2003 22:34 (twenty years ago) link

When I saw her she walked out. After flubbing three songs. 'You are at a Cat Power show what the fuck did you expect?' To be honest I never heard hear before that night and it took years before I even wanted to listen to her albums. She's her own worse enemy live.

S Samson, Monday, 24 March 2003 00:36 (twenty years ago) link

I don't like to say bad things about my fellow travellers,but Cat Power live is so, so terrible. We did a radio session on the same day & I had the dubious pleasure of sitting in for much of hers...oh God. Unpleasant.

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Monday, 24 March 2003 00:48 (twenty years ago) link

I heard a story from someone who'd been on tour with her (J0sh R0u5e) and apparently she was a whiny pain in the ass the whole time.

electric sound of jim (electricsound), Monday, 24 March 2003 00:50 (twenty years ago) link

i know a certain someone who went on tour (USA) with her and he said nothing but good things. she ended up covering his songs for most of the tour.

gygax! (gygax!), Monday, 24 March 2003 00:55 (twenty years ago) link

good for them.

electric sound of jim (electricsound), Monday, 24 March 2003 01:04 (twenty years ago) link

Cat Power really, really annoys me. Why does she go on tour? Why does she do it? Is it just to sell records? I mean obviously she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself playing these shows.

Famous Athlete, Monday, 24 March 2003 01:05 (twenty years ago) link

cat power has taken over ilm

robin (robin), Monday, 24 March 2003 01:07 (twenty years ago) link

My wifey just went to see her play.A couple of blocks away at the Unitarian church. Usually bands play in the basement but with holy people like Low and cat power they play in the actual church part. I didn't want to go, cuz I thought I might fall asleep. I chose to watch the baby and the oscars instead.

Scott Seward, Monday, 24 March 2003 01:28 (twenty years ago) link

She says she loves playing live. As to "why does she do it? is it just to sell records," no, I don't think that's it.

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Monday, 24 March 2003 01:30 (twenty years ago) link

It'll be hard to convince me that it isn't just a schtick to get people to talk about her. She wants to be a female Jandek, but a female Jandek would never perform live. To me, Cat Power live is experimental music - fun to talk about, not fun to actually listen to. The longest 30 minutes of my life was her set, when she opened for Man or Astroman.

Ernest P. (ernestp), Monday, 24 March 2003 02:35 (twenty years ago) link

My wifey just went to see her play.A couple of blocks away at the Unitarian church. Usually bands play in the basement but with holy people like Low and cat power they play in the actual church part. I didn't want to go, cuz I thought I might fall asleep. I chose to watch the baby and the oscars instead.

I'm going to see Xiu Xiu there in April. Can't wait!

lou (lou), Monday, 24 March 2003 02:48 (twenty years ago) link

2nd worst show I've ever seen. I like her records OK, and it's not like i'm against the whole ramshackle live thing - i just get annoyed by how girl-y and fucking precious the whole spectacle is.

PS the Johnny Thunders tribute show at CBGB's was the number one worst, before anyone asks.

roger adultery (roger adultery), Monday, 24 March 2003 03:09 (twenty years ago) link

i have yet to witness chan self-destruct onstage. (only seen her twice). i'm a bit nervous about her upcoming show, cuz i'm sure she'll be with a band and the recordings i've heard of her with other players were not impressive.

the thing is, i won't be going with expectations of seeing a knockout performance. i like chan's personality, her quirks, etc. and i don't care if things don't go smoothly - well, i care if she gets all upset because i don't want her to be. i just like being in the room and hearing her sing and play guitar

ron (ron), Monday, 24 March 2003 03:35 (twenty years ago) link

I heard someone put together a sorta Venom outtake style compilation/montage of Cat Power's "worst" live moments. Has anyone heard this? I can't wait to hear it.

donut bitch (donut), Monday, 24 March 2003 03:53 (twenty years ago) link

they did that already. it was called "Fevers and Mirrors"

electric sound of jim (electricsound), Monday, 24 March 2003 03:56 (twenty years ago) link


Sean@tangmonkey (Sean M), Monday, 24 March 2003 04:00 (twenty years ago) link

oh god i must hear this. i havent heard the venom tapes either someone hook a brotha up!

chaki (chaki), Monday, 24 March 2003 04:02 (twenty years ago) link

I think it's Mercyful Fate, not Venom, if it's the one on the Henry Kissinger: War Crimninal 7" comp.

roger adultery (roger adultery), Monday, 24 March 2003 04:05 (twenty years ago) link


chaki (chaki), Monday, 24 March 2003 04:06 (twenty years ago) link

I heard someone put together a sorta Venom outtake style compilation/montage of Cat Power's "worst" live moments. Has anyone heard this? I can't wait to hear it.

-- donut bitch (do...), March 23rd, 2003.

they did that already. it was called "Fevers and Mirrors"

-- electric sound of jim (electricsoun...), March 23rd, 2003.

God DAMN that was a good one

Ernest P., it's not preciousness, I can assure you of that much: I saw her do a radio session & had dinner with her in Holland a few years ago. Hard to watch, yes. Precious, no, it isn't that.

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Monday, 24 March 2003 04:18 (twenty years ago) link

My beloved Maria just got back from the show in Philly. Here is her eywitness account:
now veerrrry sleeeeepy
the first 3 songs with the band were great, then it lost steeeeaaam
the show was supposed to start at 7:30 and I just got home (1). We left before she finished. Does that tell you anything? But her voice is amazing, gotta admit, and the church setting was perty, but now my poor pew butt hurts.

Scott Seward, Monday, 24 March 2003 06:01 (twenty years ago) link

ah, the unitarian church. so much bad hardcore.

jess (dubplatestyle), Monday, 24 March 2003 06:06 (twenty years ago) link

I think that "worst" montage thingy was called "Catbutt Prowler Time"

donut bitch (donut), Monday, 24 March 2003 06:09 (twenty years ago) link

(from another messageboard)..Now she's not an average girl off the streets at least not anymore and she has the most amazing voice you could hear and plays decent guitar and piano. But she still gets nervous and her shows reflect how her day has been and how she has performed up to that point. Her shows will not be ultra professional carbon copies of each other and that is a huge part of the appeal to seeing her live. You get to see an actual human on stage dealing with the fact she wants to play her music but doesn't like being on stage to much. she seems to know she's at odds with herself but gets through it even if every night isn't perfect.

kephm, Monday, 24 March 2003 16:32 (twenty years ago) link

I think that "worst" montage thingy was called "Catbutt Prowler Time"

Hahahahaha! Ah, the memories.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 24 March 2003 17:22 (twenty years ago) link

You realize of course, that if "Catbutt Prowler Time" is indeed a chimera, we must make it come true. ;)

donut bitch (donut), Monday, 24 March 2003 20:30 (twenty years ago) link

ten years pass...

Cat Power is playing on The Weezer Cruise. What could go wrong?

lorde willin' (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 15 November 2013 14:24 (ten years ago) link

colloquially "the weezer cruise" is when a guy steps up to speak to a girl at a club but then just as he's about to speak is sick all over himself instead

love mike love (ko komo) (schlump), Friday, 15 November 2013 16:22 (ten years ago) link

five years pass...

She was really engaged and playful tonight. Also, the version of Me Voy was heartbreakingly good.

Antonym Scalia (Leee), Saturday, 2 November 2019 06:57 (four years ago) link

All this talk about Chan this and Chan that made me wonder if Cat Power could jazz up her stage act by collaborating with Chris-Chan, the famous internet person who is now apparently a woman. They could tour as Chan-Chan, with Cat Power providing the songs and Chris-Chan doing the set dressing and conceptualising.

Both artists - and I don't use that word lightly - are good with ideas but poor with execution, but I feel that the discipline of touring would do Chris-Chan the power of good and conversely the hulking form of an aggressive, ever-present maniac standing at the edge of the stage would give Cat Power a strong incentive to get her songs right first time, so that she can finish the show on time and just get the hell out.

Either way it's a win-win. What could they sing about? Sonic the Hedgehog of course. He has to go fast. Or they could use a Sonic knock-off if there are legal problems. There's a film in the works that looks awful, but Cat Power has endured bigger blows to her career, she will bounce back.

Ashley Pomeroy, Saturday, 2 November 2019 19:34 (four years ago) link

Antonym Scalia (Leee), Sunday, 3 November 2019 05:29 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

this is quite wonderful, as is the full album. Happy to go see her tour this in the spring.

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:40 (three weeks ago) link

also I'm glad that her disaster live performances are now a thing of the distant past. They weren't fun to witness.

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:42 (three weeks ago) link

Yikes, this is my absolute nightmare.

I'd take the stark reimagined minimal covers backed by The Dirty Three over this pumpkin-spice MOJO magazine boomer-oke.

citation needed (Steve Shasta), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:47 (three weeks ago) link

I saw her on the 2018 tour. She turned in a very solid performance with moments of brilliance. It was in Atlanta, which I suppose qualifies as a home town crowd for her, there were a few people in the audience she knew.

Cat Power, Center Stage, Atlanta
October 13, 2018

He Turns Down
Into My Arms / Dark End of the Street / I Don't Blame You / I Am Stretched on Your Grave / Horizon
Robbin Hood
These Days / Song to Bobby
Pa Pa Power (Dead Man’s Bones cover)
Me voy
In Your Face
Great Waves (Dirty Three cover)
Metal Heart
White Mustang (Lana Del Rey cover)
Cross Bones Style
He Was a Friend of Mine (traditional cover)
Shivers / Never Tear Us Apart
Good Woman
The Moon

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:51 (three weeks ago) link

Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places, but I can't seem to find out who her band is for this. Is it just her recent touring band?

Maxmillion D. Boosted (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:53 (three weeks ago) link

Her lighting on that tour, or at least that night, was quite . . . subdued?

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:56 (three weeks ago) link

Steve Shasta OTM

papal hotwife (milo z), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 19:57 (three weeks ago) link

I feel like her profile's rising again, which is extremely welcome - I saw her perform at a festival several years ago (2018?) and there was like nobody at her stage, just me and maybe a dozen others, few of which were really paying attention. And it wasn't like bad conditions were to blame - weather was perfect, sound was crystal clear and we were even in a nice shade. I was kind of stunned and wondered if she was already forgotten. Regardless, she played an excellent set.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 20:12 (three weeks ago) link

Yikes, this is my absolute nightmare.

if only my nightmares were so benign

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 20:46 (three weeks ago) link

she talks about why she chose to do this in this interview, and basically it was a spur of the moment decision because she had an opportunity to play the royal albert hall, and that's it

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 20:54 (three weeks ago) link

i saw her do the whole album at the troubadour last week - it was a very intimate experience as they brought out folding chairs for the audience so capacity was like half what it would normally be there. she sounded terrific, i love the grain in her voice and she really felt at home in those songs, like it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be playing this material. she seemed to know a lot of ppl in the crowd and was very smiley/appreciative throughout. they let her smoke cigs on stage which i thought was cool, seemed like she needed them to relax a little

donna rouge, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 21:08 (three weeks ago) link

my husband saw one of those disastrous early performances about 20 years ago, he said she took five minutes between songs and the audience basically had to give her a pep talk in order to make it thru the set

donna rouge, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 21:10 (three weeks ago) link

oh yeah I saw half a dozen shows like that, several of which I just left early. It put me off seeing her for years but every show I've seen over the past six or seven years has been excellent. I'm glad she's sober now.

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 21:14 (three weeks ago) link

i was actually looking for any thread on here the other day that might have mentioned it yet (found none) - but yes, when i saw the adverts for the albert hall show - and the subsequent lp release, i just could not see any point to it.... and also had memory of certain CP shows where i felt bad seeing her struggle to get through it. anyway, just listened to the LP and its fantastic - may even buy it for the parents for xmas.

Hmmmmm (jamiesummerz), Wednesday, 15 November 2023 23:34 (three weeks ago) link

One moment that stood out when I saw her several years ago came during what I *think* was a cover of "Pa Pa Power" (it's been too long to know for sure). She stood near the edge of the stage, leaned into the sparse crowd, and pounded the beat right into her fist as she belted out "we won't destroy you" (if I'm remembering the correct song). It was quite the change given what I first read about those early performances.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 23:36 (three weeks ago) link

Messed that up, I meant to say her fist pounded the beat into the palm of her other hand, like hard.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 23:37 (three weeks ago) link

acoustic half of this Dylan thing is terrific, she really nails it. the electric half is a little too tame, but it's hard (impossible?) to re-create the wild antagonistic atmosphere of those shows.

tylerw, Wednesday, 15 November 2023 23:45 (three weeks ago) link

That "Like A Rolling Stone" performance is awful. Sorry. I love Dylan and I love(d) Cat Power, but I can only wince.

Duke, Thursday, 16 November 2023 00:44 (three weeks ago) link


Cow_Art, Thursday, 16 November 2023 01:36 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah, it's pretty obviously a labor of love, but it doesn't add anything to the song or to her body of work.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 16 November 2023 01:44 (three weeks ago) link

That said, I wouldn't say it's awful, just unremarkable.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 16 November 2023 01:45 (three weeks ago) link

The band is the same as credited here I think. I’ve lost track of who normally plays with her live but checking some you tube videos at least a few of these people have been with her live for a while.

I? not I! He! He! HIM! (akm), Thursday, 16 November 2023 03:15 (three weeks ago) link

The guitarist and bass player were with her at least this far back -

papal hotwife (milo z), Thursday, 16 November 2023 05:30 (three weeks ago) link

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