NEW YORK, NY—As she slinked across stage it was easy to see that Chan Marshall, who performs as Cat Power, was well past her age of doubt. A few years sober, with her infamous stage antics and breakdowns now a distant memory, she was lovely, confident, and maybe even happy during her sold-out New York City show at Terminal 5.
Supporting her eighth album, Jukebox, a collection of mostly covers, Marshall once again borrowed the words of her heroes to express what’s perhaps a little too intimate to say alone.
Her bright smile peeked through hushed lighting as she opened with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” backed by The Dirty Delta Blues Band. Her sneaky, quiet vocals seemed comfortable wrapped around the Hank Williams cover “Ramblin’ (Wo)man,” and James Brown’s “Lost Someone,” but her interpretations of “Silver Stallion” originally performed by The Highwaymen, and Janis Joplin’s “Woman Left Lonely,” sounded more natural.
The Atlanta, Georgia-born performer seemed most at home with her older songs. She introduced “Metal Heart,” which appears on Jukebox, re-made from her 1998 version, as “an old song from when I was a young girl.” She followed it with “Moon,” “Where Is My Love” and “The Greatest,” all from her acclaimed The Greatest album. Other highlights included “Song To Bobby,” Jukebox’s other Marshall-penned tune, and “Lived In Bars.”
Erratic phrasing lends to Marshall’s unique sound. It’s as if she cautiously chases, then catches every thought. Though pretty, it can leave you a bit breathless without some up-tempo relief. But a cozier venue than this former dance hall might have solved that. And feedback that broke the mood for much of the evening didn’t help.
During her cover of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You,” Marshall gracefully worked in the line, “That feedback is pissing me off,” to wild applause. It proved how far she’s come as a live performer. Marshall was only fighting feedback—not herself.
Photo Credit: Tina Whelski