I am admittedly a creature of habit, and I've gotta say I have been to 'most every Cat Power show in San Francisco over the last 10 years. 10 years! I feel old. I feel like I've seen Chan Marshall through a lot, and unlike most others, I never gave up on her. The main thing that brought me back to see her time and time again was simple: her voice.
Despite her mini breakdowns, despite her half finishing songs, despite her spotting ghosts mid set at the Great American and her whispered apologies, despite that one time she had a broken finger and still tried to play a solo show, I have always shown up, cause I just don't think you can beat her smoky voice. It's just unbeatable.
Last night at the Fillmore, it was in full effect, and this time she was fully fronting a rock band, cordless mic included. While I was slightly disappointed she wasn't playing guitar or piano herself, I was delighted to see her smiling onstage, and often. She seemed secure in her place at last.
The show was packed with soul covers; as always she twisted and shook the tunes until they became something almost unrecognizable and felt like her own. I loved her sad version of "Tracks of My Tears", and I always have enjoyed hearing her sing "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" -- that one will never die. I love how she always references her Southern roots in her choices-- last night with Otis Redding. She also sang "Dark Side of the Street" to fantastic, sultry effect. Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" even was slipped in (She must be obsessed with that song, cause I've heard her do it before, over a year ago.) before she was off to Patsy Cline. She even covered Joni Mitchell's "Blue", a personal favorite of mine. Oh, and her version of "Satisfaction" was the opposite of anything I've heard her do: an almost dead on copy of the original-- she even sang the choruses of the song for the first time, despite the fact that she included the song on her album The Covers Record.
She also pleasingly revisited songs from the past that she hasn't really touched in many years. She played "Naked If I Want To" and "Metal Heart", both straightforwardly, not mucking them up as she often would if she even went there in the past. Those songs are from my two most worn records of hers, the aforementioned Covers Record and Moon Pix.
And, as expected, she played some songs from her latest record The Greatest like "Where Is My Love", "The Greatest" and "Could We". These songs got the greatest ovations from the crowd, which feels strange to me, but then again it was a sold out show at the Fillmore costing $32.50 a ticket! What I mean is, it was a different crowd than it used to be. They were probably relieved to hear something they knew after all those covers and rambling. I like how with Chan you never know what you're gonna get-- she always brings something different and unexpected to her shows, and you're not always going to hear what you want to most. Instead I always leave wowed by something new.
I've always enjoyed how, despite her gaining popularity, Chan has always remained so fully idiosyncratic. She seems happy now. She is still dressed in tomboy clothes, a Levi's shirt and jeans, even if now they are augmented with black Chanel fingerless gloves and Siouxsie Sioux style eye liner.
Big ups to Jim White, the drummer from Dirty Three who's toured with her off and on for a decade or more. He has an austere, tasteful drumming style but also knows when it's time for rock n roll -- the perfect compliment to Chan and her soulful sad songs. It was fun to see them together again.
At the after party, Chan chain smoked and happily attended to her friends, while her spotted French Bulldog Mona ran around looking for attention and a place to pee.
Here's Chan performing at the Chanel Spring 2007 Couture Show. The second YouTube is Chan performing on Letterman in spring 2003. I love "Maybe Not."