Cat Power at Mill City Nights, 10/30/12
Photo by Erik Hess
Mill City Nights
October 30, 2012
Cat Power's show last night at Mill City Nights offered something of a mixed bag for audience members. There was a lot going on: with incense burning on stage throughout the night, the artist also known as Chan Marshall alternated between some awkward tendencies -- grasping at a figurine she removed from her pocket, fidgeting, utilizing two microphones at once to match the harmonies inside her head (which may or may not have been effective) -- and giving her love and gratitude to the crowd with some disarming smiles and hand gestures and genuine thank-you's.
Marshall has no small reputation for erratic behavior in performances, and aside from her die-hard fans and followers, last night's audience members had to know that their $40 concert tickets were a bet on good faith that Marshall wouldn't end the show early. Three songs in, she might have: as our photographer -- who had a photo pass, with permission from Marshall's management -- walked closer to her, Marshall interrupted her song and demanded to know who he was.
"What does your badge say?" asked Marshall petulantly. "There's no photo passes. Who's giving them out? There's no fucking photo passes." She turned to the crowd, muttering into her microphone. "I'm not trying to be rude. I'm here for you, not for them."
Props, maybe, to Marshall, for not being perturbed enough to walk off stage then and there. Indeed, that early incident might have solidified her confidence for the rest of the evening, as Marshall -- though neurotic -- stayed, more or less, on her game... from her point of view, at least.
Photos by Erik Hess
Note, this came mere hours after Marshall posted this message on Instagram:
"I MAY HAVE TO CANCEL MY EUROPEAN TOUR DUE TO BANKRUPTCY & MY HEALTH STRUGGLE WITH ANGIOEDEMA. I HAVE NOT THROWN IN ANY TOWEL, I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT BEST I CAN DO. HEART BROKEN. WORKED SO HARD. GOT SICK DAY AFTER "SUN" CAME OUT; BEEN STRUGGLING TO KEEP ALL POINTS OF ME IN EQUILIBRIUM : MIND, SPIRIT, BODY HEALTHY CENTERED & GROUNDED. I AM DOING THE BEST I CAN. I FUCKING LOVE THIS PLANET. I REFUSE TO GIVE UP. THOUGH I MAY NEED TO RESTRATAGIZE FOR MY SECURITY &; HEALTH."
Marshall's set, which favored tracks from her recently released ninth studio album, Sun, didn't really pick up until about eight or so songs in, when she introduced the new and unrecorded song "Bully." It was the first time her magnetic voice was truly distinguishable, as the mix on the instruments was turned way down. Lights were dimmed, and Marshall was like a silhouette in focus, careening towards the crowd and singing as though her tormenter was right in front of her. This version of Chan Marshall was the one you wanted always -- focused, audible, mesmerizing even in her strangeness.
Photo by Erik Hess
For a brief period, then, Marshall shone in all her glorious weirdness. She followed "Bully" with a hypnotic cover of Pedro Infante's "Angelitos Negros," which might have been the best display of her vocal power, and delivered "The Greatest" with the musical eloquence the song deserves.
But then, the set went on. And on. Nearly 100 minutes on stage, there, and while Marshall managed to hold the attention of a number of the most dedicated fans, a glance upward to the balcony or to the back showed a thinning crowd and faces that looked like they would be happier watching a road being paved. Then, with one silly stage bow from Marshall and her four-piece band, the show was over -- just as awkwardly as it had started.
Critic's Bias: I am a Cat Power fan -- I think she is a brilliant songwriter and a stunning vocalist -- but I wasn't sure what to expect from a show.
The Crowd: Diverse enough, and pretty full by the time Marshall took the stage -- though the excitement waned and wilted as the night went on.
Overheard in the Crowd: "He's really brave... I've never seen anyone masturbate on stage before," someone said of Entrance -- who, yeah, seemed pretty into presenting himself as a lone guitarist with a disturbing warble-wail of a singing voice. Personally, I think he made a good case for a Twilight knock-off character.
Random Notebook Dump: Apparently, a couple people fainted. It wasn't particularly hot or crowded or thrashy, so my best guess is that it was the incense.
Notebook Part II: There was a large portion of the crowd that was really supportive of whatever Marshall wanted to do on stage, and I got the feeling she could have sat down on the edge and started crying and her fans would have moved heaven and earth to comfort her. In this way, and especially given her antics, it almost seemed like Marshall was playing a sulky teenager acting out. But whatever.
Notebook III: At one point, Marshall said to the crowd, "Midwest people remind me of really smart Southern people." Still trying to suss out of that was a compliment or a sneaky dig.
Set list: Feel free to correct in the comments; I was lost on a lot of the lyrics in her first songs.
Always On My Own
Back In The Days
Peace And Love
I Don't Blame You
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