Cat Power at the Olympia Theatre, Wednesday 16th July 2014

Cat Power isn’t really the type that goes by setlists. Or anything ‘set’, really. This Wednesday night in the Olympia is chaos, but not a manic panic, or an organised drama. No, it’s an introverted chaos, an awkward one where you have to stop yourself from attempting to intervene.

Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, is on stage and we’re wondering if she realises this. But hey, don’t mind us. We can’t bring anything to the party. Coming on stage almost apologetically, the crowd are immediately on her side. But she lost her grip, stumbling through a musical marathon, playing a plethora of songs well past the two and a half hour mark.

The set was a mix of her more obscure material and some select covers. Maybe. It’s hard to tell if she even got through a whole song in its entirety, with so much erratic chopping and changing she was just as clueless as us as to what was coming up next. Consulting with her sound guy a lot, it was kind of disconcerting, like your bus driver not sure what route he’s going. Between political outbursts and reefing equipment around the stage, she was chilling on her own, playing what she wanted and when. Deal with it. Fans there to hear material from her 2012 effort ‘Sun’, would have been sorely disappointed, with Power only playing 3,6,9 from her most commercially successful album to date.

Her crippling stage fright aside, there’s no stopping her vocally. She gave the fans a show, disjointed clumsiness excused. When she’s good she’s good, belting out the likes of Werewolf with that tragic ease she’s made recognisable. Earlier material like The Greatest and Colors and the Kids were just a treat.

Sitting behind the keyboard made her worse, perhaps not allowing the blinkers to have their full effect. But still, Maybe Not, with her haunting voice emerging from the blue light, was all strangely grim but enrapturing. It’s sad in a way, but powerful enough to stir up these emotions without even caring if we’re there. The crowd were merely getting to eavesdrop on her, as she played through applauses and stopped as we were listening.

Many people left before the set had reached a conclusion, the atmosphere was that she just might literally go on forever. One guy shouted that he had to leave for a bus but didn’t want to, perhaps realising his exit could be construed as something a bit more unpleasant.

The set was far too long for something that wasn’t well planned, or planned at all. Ploughing through about 30 songs, there was the feeling that she wasn’t doing it to thrill us, something just went wrong. The highs were all too rare for how stunning they were.

Chan Marshall has still got the power, even if it’s not in her organisational skills or pacing. She’s never going to be entirely comfortable in front of an audience, but that’s their fault, isn’t it?

Cat Power Photo Gallery

Photos: Mark Earley

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