To say Chan Marshall, otherwise known as Cat Power, is painfully shy is an extreme understatement. Its more than shyness, it’s a neurosis, and sometimes it seems to border on some kind of mental illness. I had heard that sometimes she turns her back on the audience, and that on other occasions she has been known to just stop mid-set and walk off the stage. This time she stayed on stage, facing the audience, for the whole set, but her shyness/neurosis was evident as she hid behind her long fringe, barely looked up, and whispered to herself almost schizophrenically. In between songs she whispered quiet thank yous, but even then the audience only got a couple of chances to applaud her, as she made each song run into the next.
Marshall repeatedly apologised for her “next boring song”, and when sitting down behind the piano for the second time said quietly, as she tapped her feet, “I can hear you, you’re like ‘Oh no not that again’”. Her self-consciousness and self doubt are totally unwarranted. Everyone there, minus the guys who had been dragged along by their girlfriends for Valentine’s Day, had fallen in love with the sound of Cat Power, and the concept of one of her songs being boring had probably never crossed their minds.
In her non-stop move from song to song it was sometimes difficult to pick out what she was playing, but there were a couple of favourites: ‘Good Woman’, at the request of an audience member, and ‘I Don’t Blame You’, ‘Maybe Not’ and ‘Names’, all from her album You are Free, as well as her covers of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ and The White Stripes’ ‘I Wanna Be the Girl to Warm Your Mother’s Heart’ which she ended by shaking her head, obviously unimpressed with herself. She didn’t play anything from her album Moon Pix, much to my disappointment, and her song choices probably could have been revised to add some variety and break up the show. At times it just seemed like one long song.
From the moment Marshall first sat down at the piano and began to sing I had an almost constant shiver running down my spine; her voice is really indescribable, but I’ll give it a go. If you could imagine what the voice of a siren would sound like, Marshall wouldn’t be far off; her voice is laden with emotion, husky and soft at the same time. She croons without cooing, and sometimes wails as if in pain. Her voice, thankfully, is not hampered by her shyness.
While I love Cat Power’s music, I didn’t always love this performance. I enjoyed it most, in fact, when my view was blocked by the person in front of me and I could only see Marshall’s silhouette thrown dramatically against the wall. Her performance makes me wonder why she bothers touring; if you are that painfully shy, to the point when it borders on mental illness, why put yourself through such torture?
Monday 14th February