Cat Power at Burton Chace Park in Marina Del Rey, Saturday August 4th 2018
There is always a certain degree of apprehension when you go see Cat Power, the singer songwriter has become famous for her stage meltdowns and sometimes an unpredictable behavior, but this is definitively the past. Chan Marshall gave a rather intimate concert inside Burton Chace Park in Marina Del Rey on Saturday night, and just like that, she previewed two new songs of her upcoming album, and did many more or less unexpected covers … Don’t expect Chan Marshall to play by the rules, she will release ‘Wanderer’ early October and wouldn’t be logical for her to sing her new songs mixed with old ones? Instead, she is going to look for these obscure songs that only a few will identify the correct way
And if you want the unexpected, ask Chan, who did a song by the Boys Next Door, written by guitarist Rowland S Howard and recorded by Nick Cave’s early band, later called The Birthday Party… although I am not sure she kept the same lyrics? And to pursue with the same common obsession, she also did ‘Great Waves’, a collaboration with Dirty Three, the instrumental band of Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis…. But who covers Dead Man’s Bones? Ryan Gosling’s band and album recorded with the Silverlake conservatory children choir? There was also a cover of Mississippi blues songwriter and guitarist Jessie Mae Hemphill, her well-known version of Phil Phillips’ ‘Sea of Love’, and an unexpected Lana Del Rey tune, ‘White Mustang’…. It may have been the first time she was covering the song, but since Del Rey is featured on Cat Power’s upcoming album, it all made sense. However, I didn’t recognize the song at the time, as Chan habited it in a very different way, without Lana’s vaporous glamor. At the risk to upset all the Del Rey’s fans out there, there is no doubt in my mind that Chan is the real sadcore queen, as there is nothing like her deep howl when she seems to descend to the most profound places of her throat and mind.
There were old and new songs, but finally far less new songs than I had thought in the first place, this is always what get with Chan, the rare and unexpected covers, and finally not very much was revealed about ‘Wanderer’, beside the title song, and another very powerful and poignant one, ‘Me Voy’.
But it all started with, yes, another cover, ‘These Days’ that she sang with a very quiet guitar, blending effortlessly to her own ‘Song to Bobby’. Of course there is her voice, dark, smoky, fragile and triumphant at the same time, a show-stopper that would easily make you jump at the end of the world with your unrequited love, as a connection with a Cat Power’s song is always deeply personal, painful and soothing at the same time.
The Moon Pix songs were sad and slow as they always are, or habited by a deeply anxious bass (Cross Bones Style’), fading away like the sun at this time of the day but Chan was all smile during the entire set, occasionally burning matches. It was a bit strange but this is gonna be the only pyrotechnic effect that you are gonna get at a Cat Power concert.
The title song of her new album, ‘Wanderer’ was stripped down to the essential as all the other songs she did, only surrounded by three musicians playing quietly behind her haunting croon. She did very few of ‘Sun’, her previous album, and ‘Manhattan’ was a one of the highlights of the show, sung with the warmest depths of her voice, as she was freely letting her vocals follow the stamping krautrock-y tempo of the song, as precise as the heart rhythm, as says the song says : ‘See your heart has a rhythm/You got your secret on/And you say you got nothing to hide/You, you, you and your secret life’
If each of her stage moves and arm gestures, which can be deliciously strange and awkward at times, demonstrated she was in a very positive place, the mood of the show was very melancholic, and she picked the saddest song (‘The Moon’) of her most upbeat album ‘The Greatest’… after asking people to readjust the lighting several times – she didn’t want pink or yellow lights – she left us with broken relationships and the bitter to angry heartbreaks of ‘Good Woman’ and ‘Bully’, and she transformed ‘Sea of Love’ into a serenade about happiness and true love. May be Chan is happy after all.
These Days (Nico cover) / Song to Bobby
He Turns Down
White Mustang (Lana Del Rey cover)
Pa Pa Power (Dead Man’s Bones cover)
Great Waves (Dirty Three cover)
Cross Bones Style / Nude as the News
Shivers (The Boys Next Door cover)
Lord Help the Poor and Needy (Jessie Mae Hemphill cover)
Sea of Love (Phil Phillips cover)