Cat Power Delivers Something Real and Honest at Music Hall

March 12th, 2014

Cat Power – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 11, 2014

It’s rare to find oneself in this situation at a show in New York City: the venue free of chatter, the rare glare of a cell phone utterly out of place, camera flashes overtly distracting and the brightest light onstage a candle lit by Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power. The first of last night’s two shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg, it was surprising how much ground Marshall covered, with tracks spanning her catalog. Beginning on guitar, she made quick work of a number of songs out of the gate, including the very raw “Hate” and a stripped- down cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” before settling onto the piano stool.

Faced with the sheen of the grand piano rather than the expectant faces of hundreds, Marshall eased in a bit and allowed her songs more room to roam. “Colors and the Kids” was delivered with some quick, playful jabs in the air, as if to agree with the sentiment she’d so soundly evoked. A number of stirring songs followed, including crowd favorite “The Greatest” and the shiver-inducing pair of “I Don’t Blame You” and “Maybe Not.” By this point Marshall seemed to have postponed any thought of those standing in line for the second show, single-mindedly focused on delivering for those standing before her. She took up her guitar again for her version of the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and then belted out “Metal Heart,” a tune that’s made its way onto two of her albums.

Alongside her obvious desire to deliver, there was an urgency to Marshall’s set, as if she had just one more chance to perform everything she ever wanted to play. Power ran down her set list between songs, looking for the next: “Played that … played that … don’t want to play that.” She checked off some more—“Naked if I Want To,” playful and pleading, and “Good Woman,” agonizing and burning, before it became clear we’d have to make room for those queued up outside. This seemed a real dilemma to Marshall, who appeared to feel she still owed us more. And so the first show ended with a quiet, sometimes-whispered back and forth with the audience, and a final acceptance of the close of the set. For all of her mixed feelings about the show, hopefully Chan Marshall left satisfied. There were a couple of technical issues that stalled the set at points, and there were moments when jitters nearly got the best of her. But those were just in keeping with what the audience had come to share in, something real and honest, something beautiful and vulnerable at the same time. —JC McIlwaine