After a six-year hiatus from releasing any albums of original songs, indie singer/songwriter Chan Marshall, AKA Cat Power, came back last year with her highest-charting album yet, Sun. The album shows her taking on a different approach to her music; it consists primarily of electronic instruments with a greater presence of drums, something that’s not really apparent on most of her other records. While in the studio she appears to be going in different directions, her solo performances show that she can still work in an intimate setting.
Performing two sets last night at the Grog Shop, Marshall took the audience through an erratic, deeply personal solo performance as she swapped her normal backing band for guitar and an upright piano. The subdued audience listened attentively to her beautiful songs woven around charm, wit and heartache.
Despite the delayed start of the show, which ultimately began three hours after the originally scheduled time, the patient crowd warmly welcomed her to the stage. She picked up her electric guitar, and the red flannel-clad songstress opened the show with a bluesy number interrupted by her simultaneously thanking and apologizing to the crowd. This informal atmosphere set the course for the first hour and a half set of the night (she was supposed to play two separate shows but the late start meant that the early show simply segued into the late show).
Openly appreciative of the audience's patience, she then went into "Hate," a track from her seminal album The Greatest. Throughout the night, the songs were performed in a slightly disjointed fashion; sometimes blending into one another and other times cut short for quiet conversation with the crowd. However, as she performed, there was a quiet reverence amongst the listeners. The show had its moments as Marshall crooned "The Greatest" and gave a haunting solo piano performance on "Names."
Nico Turner, who's opened for Cat Power throughout her tour, had her performance cut because of the late start. However, when Marshall went to perform "Metal Heart," she brought out Turner to back her up on guitar. Free of playing an instrument, she pantomimed the lyrics; harkening back to her early days when she was experimenting more as a performance artist. Though the Grog was packed nearly to capacity, the venue felt small and close. It felt like we walked into her living room to watch a private, informal performance.