Saturday, May 14
Shan Marshall has recorded and performed under her Cat Power moniker for some two decades now and has visited New Zealand a handful of times. This show was rescheduled from the earlier planned date of February due to Marshall’s rare medical condition, angioedema which causes rapid swelling.
Cat Power shows are an idiosyncratic and often uncomfortable affair – this being the third I’ve survived. She performs solo across piano and guitar and the performances are unpolished, the limited musical vocabulary means the tunes sound largely similar as she segues between them leaving no room for applause. It’s ultimately a claustrophobic mood. Even some of the covers are hard to spot – the early inclusion of her cover of The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction arrived on the back of one of her own songs using the same chord sequence.
After half a dozen songs at the guitar, singing into twin microphones to create an eerie double-track of vocals, she moved to the piano where she performed in a style seemingly derived from Neil Young and Daniel Johnston, emotionally resonant and enthusiastic; kicking the pedal as if it owed her money.
Bacharach’s What The World Needs Now Is Love was tossed in around songs from 2003’s You Are Free and 2012’s Sun but frequent complaints of more – and then less – reverb sent her down a spiral.
Audience members laughed, possibly uneasily, at what passed for stage banter and it became sad to watch as she unravelled – awkward, weird, ultimately disappointing. Some fool in the crowd yelled out about her spiritually connecting with the audience…not true. Not at all true. The toll she’s taken to do whatever she is trying to do cannot be worth it. I would say I feel sorry for her but I’m so far away from understanding it and wouldn’t want to appear at all patronising. It just all seemed a shame.
Depression and substance abuse are part of her back-story, here she is now on the road, between albums as they say, a working mother with a one year old in tow. She announced during her shambolic monologues that included the banging together of the microphones, announcement of faux-speeches to come and strange, affected voices that she would be concluding the show to breastfeed. It becomes speculation as to what makes her want to perform and what it’s doing to her, but these shows – seemingly taking place inside her head – are not good for anyone. Yes, some audience members gave a standing ovation, but many had left frustrated and/or sad long before she shuffled off the stage.
This review first appeared in The Dominion Post and online at Stuff here