Cat Power and the Dirty Delta Blues
by Shana Scudder
For those who follow Cat Power in hopes of seeing the spectacle of mental illness that has accompanied her previous appearances, this tour is sure to be a disappointment. In years past, the legend of Cat Power somewhat eclipsed her music; her shows would sell out regularly and venues would continue to book her, even though it was questionable whether or not she would show up, and if she did, whether she would play for 15 minutes or 3 hours. It was hard for reviews not to focus on this aspect of her persona, since there was often no music happening at all.
I saw Cat Power in this same venue (The Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina) last year, and she did play, but with obvious difficulty; her band was instrumental in helping her get through the show. Once the music ended, she rambled on nonsensically for 30-45 minutes, as the audience began to trickle out of the venue. Those who stayed behind were either disturbed, transfixed, or amused. It was difficult to listen to some of the comments being made, and I felt very protective of this person who was obviously ill, and it wasn’t a joke.
This year’s show, on October 16, 2007, was quite a different story. Chan Marshall was beautiful, graceful, still characteristically quirky, but she barreled through a good 90 minutes of music with few pauses and no breakdowns. She performed many classic covers, such as the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” and proved that she is becoming quite the soul singer and an impressive song interpreter. This show was definitely all about the music, and there was barely a trace of the illness that caused her to flee the stage in terror after five minutes.
I don’t know what Ms. Marshall is doing differently in her life, but it appears to be quite a sea change, and her artistry is exploding. She seems to finally be conquering some of her demons, and reaching her full potential as an artist. It is definitely a beautiful thing to witness, and her voice continues to develop with a deep resonance that is sure to carry her into rock iconography.