Grand Central, Miami
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Better Than: Manhattan after a nuclear war.
For Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, the weight of her gifts has proven a heavy burden to shoulder over the years. And as such, most fans understand that purchasing a ticket to see the Atlanta-bred songstress perform comes with the caveat of a potential meltdown, and a rocky ride through some exquisite songs in a best case scenario.
Unfortunately, those that attended Marshall's performance last night at Grand Central bore witness to what might be described, gently, as a less than stellar performance. However, we're not especially gentle, and we're cool with saying that Chan Marshall was a complete train wreck.
A pretty well-packed club chatted away through Cat Power's only support act, California-based rapper Addiquit. The fact of the matter is that (regardless of how hip-hop infused the new Cat Power album may be) even the highest caliber, rowdiest rapper in hip-hop would've made for awkward direct support to Marshall's smokey ballads and introspective bedroom rock.
And as such, Addiquit was anything but. The young female MC's fusion of semi-cool, danceable beats with insubstantial rhymes and a super-suburban stage presence didn't do the trick. The set was met with indifference, even after the young woman leveled with the audience about "just being a cali-girl that wanted to share her art."
The Cat Power band broke onto the stage around 10 p.m. to a boisterous crowd that could not be quelled by the now-dimmed blue lighting and gentle piano. Marshall entered after what felt like an eternity of smooth, vintage electric piano, sporting a blonde mohawk and a look of sheer, unfiltered terror. Despite the odd entrance, Marshall's gossamer vocals silenced the crowd -- for the most part.
The first song was the victim of an early end at the hands of Marshall's apparent displeasure with the stage sound, halting the band with a sheepish mumble of "I can't sing this," or something of that nature, though exact quotes were hard to come by between Marshall's mumbling and the crowd prattling away.
As the band attempted to sweep away the shattered pieces of the first number with an uptempo second song, we could see the sound man scrambling away behind the board, looking concerned and frantically twisting knobs.
With a golden beam of light shrouding her silhouette, the songstress rallied and got through the song, swaying and itching a bit in what could only be described as a mime's imaginary box, set in the corner of the stage.
A feedback squall prompted her to make an odd pointing gesture at the keyboard player, and it was at this time that it became clear: Marshall was completely torn-down on something.
She looked uncomfortable in her own skin, and in general, lived up to her poor track record as a live performer. Though the band got through the night despite Marshall's multiple exits from the stage and apparently random changes she made in the set order, the 3 ladies and a man all looked mortified to be where they were.
The curious thing was that Marshall's vocals sounded phenomenal despite the singer's body language and erratic behavior.
At one point, an early cue sent some of Marshall's pre-recorded vocals on their way before she had the mike up to her mouth, revealing the singer's safety net in perhaps the answer to the look of panic we saw on the sound man's face earlier in the night.
There were a myriad of other gory details we could provide. Perhaps we could paint a more vivid picture of what the apparently pre-recorded songs sounded like through the fancy PA, but we prefer to opt for an appeal of sorts: Get Chan Marshall off the road and into proper treatment.
Marshall has toured behind the likes of Nick Cave, Dave Grohl has done guest spots on her albums, and Manny Pacquiao shows up in her videos. The records are still fantastic, and the truth of the matter is that no one really sounds like Chan Marshall.
However, she is unwell. And though it might now be a part of the Cat Power mystique, it is beyond uncomfortable to pay money to watch the unraveling of a woman this talented at the hands of whatever vice has her in its grip.
Personal Bias: We loooove Chan Marshall. We're worried about her.
Cat Power's Official Setlist:
-"I Don't Blame You"
-"Back in the Day"
-"Peace and Love"
-"Always on My Own"
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-"Nothing But Time"
-"Wanna Be Your Dog"