Missed Connections: Cat Power at First Avenue
Feb. 11, 2008
Review by Sarah Askari
Photos by Daniel Corrigan
Chan Marshall can hold herself together onstage, finally. But she hasn't yet learned how to hold the audience's attention.
She's touring behind her latest release, a covers album called Jukebox. The musicians who backed her on that disc, the Dirty Delta Blues Band, are with her at First Avenue, but I kind of wish she'd left them at home. I guess she can't, 'cause the singer known as Cat Power doesn’t really have a home. Despite apartments in several cities, Marshall is a born wanderer. She doesn't get comfortable anywhere -- even up on stage, where, despite her smiling, she paces and fidgets the entire evening.
Cat Power's performances drew a "meh" from Sarah Askari. More photos by Daniel Corrigan.
Marshall's trick on this tour should be to stun us all with the hair-raising mournful beauty of her voice as she shows off her interpretations of songs by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra -- stuff we all know the words to. But I'm feeling more strained than stunned. It's impossible to catch the nuances of the vocals over the Dirty Delts. Each organ swell washes away Marshall's voice like a tsunami taking out a fishing village. All the subtle secrets that come out on the album are missing here. And that connection that an artist forms with the audience--that charisma that keeps all mouths shut and all eyes on center stage? Also missing. She's got it in her, that power to hold the attention of a thousand people--for proof, check out this YouTube clip. Perhaps she can't just turn it on and off at will.
There are a few times when the crowd's noisy chitchat and the band's bossy blues die down enough to let Chan shine: a cover of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You," and her only original track on Jukebox, "Song to Bobby." Even with the band in full force on "Aretha, Sing One for Me," she holds her own. Still, I cut out before the gig was finished. There might be a few more songs to play, but it's clear there isn't going to be a climax.