Cat Power & the Memphis Rhythm Band / Sept. 10, 2006 / New York (Irving Plaza)
We can now make two distinctions in the Cat Power/Chan Marshall live history: the pre-"Greatest" era and the post-"Greatest" era. The former has been documented ad nauseam, what with Marshall's procliWe can now make two distinctions in the Cat Power/Chan Marshall live history: the pre-"Greatest" era and the post-"Greatest" era. The former has been documented ad nauseam, what with Marshall's proclivity for shambling shows featuring incomplete songs and on-stage meltdowns. Those days seems to be long behind her, as she's found solace with the Memphis Rhythm Band, whose members include some of classic R&B's prized session musicians.
If all it took was a few more people on stage for Marshall to realize her true potential (or at least a shot of confidence) better late than never. The 180 she's done reflects a woman who has embraced her quirkiness, learned how to command an audience and become comfortable enough to have fun on stage -- something pre-"Greatest" Marshall seemed incapable of.
Throughout her set, she waved to friends in the audience, smoked cigarettes while sipping tea, mimed and danced, but any antics were largely overshadowed by the flawless execution of songs from "The Greatest." It also helped that the background singers remained in the background, rather than overpowering Marshall like they did at a New York gig this summer.
Marshall had a few problems with the monitor during "Living Proof", but once the slow ballad "Lived in Bars" kicked in, the necessary adjustments appeased her and there went the only hiccup. "Willie" incorporated a nice string introduction that's unique to her live show, and set opener "The Greatest" featured a long, repetitive piano intro that served to build up suspense.
The real surprise came towards the end, when Marshall introduced old favorites with new Memphis Rhythm Band arrangements. "Cross Bones Style" almost had a "James Bond" theme quality about it, morphing into a haunting, eerie arrangement of the even more rare "Nude As the News." She also deftly handled covers of "House of the Rising Sun" and "Wild Is the Wind."
The show ended with Marshall serenading the crowd in a seemingly impromptu, fast-skat of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," which was drowned out midway by the PA playing the original. But she remained on the side of the stage, dancing and mouthing along. The power of post-"Greatest" Marshall is clearly rooted in the premise that a little help from her friends is all she ever needed.
Here is Cat Power's set list:
Memphis Rhythm Band Introduction Jams
"Lived in Bars"
"Where Is My Love"
"I Found a Reason" (solo)
"Wild Is the Wind" (solo)
"House of the Rising Sun" (solo)
"Love and Communication" (solo)
"I Can't Give You Anything But Love" (solo)
"Since You Been Gone" (Teenie Hodges song)
"Naked If I Want To"
"Cross Bones Style"
"Nude As the News"