Addicted to novelty since 2001

Cat Power at the Vogue Theatre

First, apologies for the light posting this week. We’re running at 110% at Capulet, writing a book and starting on the house-building process (more on that later), so it’s been a hectic week.

Last night we watched Cat Power (a stage name, as it turns out) at the Vogue Theatre. I don’t have time to produce a fully-nuanced review, but I wanted to make a few observations:

Damn, I’m old. The average age of attendees seemed to be about 25. That’s eight years younger than me. Hopefully that places me in the old-but-still-cool-not-creepy category.

It was general seating at the Vogue. This struck me as odd, as it’s a theatre, but never mind. I got in line at 6:30pm so that I could get good seats. We went in at 8:00pm, and got awesome seats at the centre of the front row of the balcony (hence, nobody standing in front of me).

Despite the ‘special guests’ listed on the ticket, there was no opening act Ms. Power didn’t make it on stage until 9:45pm. I’ve written about this before (though I can’t find where, precisely), but why do we permit rock musicians to be so audaciously late? The theatre, movies, ballet, symphony–everybody else starts more or less when they say they will. Why do musicians get a free pass? And you know that Cat Power and her band aren’t backstage doing coke off of strippers. They’re probably just trying to finish Lego Star Wars on their PlayStation Portable.

Their Chaotic and Unpolished Nature

Ms. Power was obviously having difficulty with her monitors (the speakers facing the band that enabling them to hear themselves) all evening. Near the end of the show she apologized for her apparently sub-par performance. According to Wikipedia, she makes a habit of this:

Traditionally, Marshall’s live shows have been notorious for their chaotic and unpolished nature, with songs beginning and ending abruptly or blending into one another without clear transitions. Marshall has in the past spoken of her severe stage fright. She has been known to stop playing in order to apologize for a self-perceived flaw in her performance.

Ryan Adams did the same thing when I saw him in Dublin–I find these theatrics tremendously unappealing. If you’re a performing artist, it behooves you to be a professional and keep your complaints and fragile ego to yourself. Drawing attention to your flaws makes the audience uncomfortable, and makes me feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. Besides, people aren’t paying as much attention as they might think. A musicians has to seriously screw up for the audience to notice.

A Quirky White-Girl Dancer

I did enjoy the show, though Chan Marshall is kind of a one-tricky pony. She’s got an extraordinary and unique voice, but I didn’t hear a lot of variation in her vocal style. Plus, she’s not a particularly articulate singer, so hearing the actual lyrics was a non-starter.

I did enjoy her seemingly-compulsive need to revise songs, both her own and covers. Her version of the Stone’s classic “Satisfaction” was both different from the original and the her version on her Covers album. My favourite Cat Power song, “Lived in Bars”, gained two new tempo changes.

She’s got a peculiar physicality on-stage. She’s a quirky white-girl dancer that’s simultaneously awkward and endearing as she seems to invent new moves on the fly. Physically, she’s the unholy love-child of Joe Cocker and Axl Rose. It’s a bit like she’s still in her teenaged bedroom, dancing alone in front of a mirror.

Would I go see her again? Probably not. Her vocals are remarkable, but her immature behaviour and lack of musical variety kind of turned me off.

UPDATE: Here’s a review from the Vancouver Sun. It shouldn’t, this newspaper continues to surprise with the declining calibre of its writing and reportage. Oy.

9 Responses to “Cat Power at the Vogue Theatre”

  1. Derek K. Miller

    After almost 20 years as a paid musician, I have to agree that it’s rare for audiences to perceive what are obvious problems to musicians onstage — see the first Police show in 2007 as an example. And I’ve never understood chronic lateness either. In our cover band, we only go on late if we follow speeches etc. that run long. We’ll be on time at the Sun Run starting line next Sunday (Apr 20), for instance. We’d better be.

  2. Davin

    “If you’re a performing artist, it behooves you to be a professional and keep your complaints and fragile ego to yourself. Drawing attention to your flaws makes the audience uncomfortable, and makes me feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. Besides, people aren’t paying as much attention as they might think. A musicians has to seriously screw up for the audience to notice.”

    Completely agree.

  3. Harmen

    I’ve seen her play a few times years ago. She played in small venues then, and had, indeed, the habit to stop songs, hide behind her hair, tune a lot and apologize. The few songs that she did manage to play where worth all the trouble, though.

    Last year a saw her again, but, even though she did manage to put on a normal show, it was indeed terribly boring. Ohwell, the taste of people change, and so does do the kind of music musicians which to play. Good for her, but choose to see Alela Diane tonight, not Chan :)

  4. raincoaster

    She probably wasn’t doing coke off strippers. As she’s said in interviews, she has an on-again, off-again relationship with smack. No report on the hookers.

    I think Keith Richards said it well, when he explained why he’d be four hours late routinely. He said words to the effect of “People don’t realize I wasn’t trying to upstage anyone. It wasn’t a plan. I wasn’t being cool. I was just so fucked up that I had been trying to be on time for the whole four bloody hours and failed.”

  5. Brian

    We showed up after 9:00, so I had thought we’d missed the opening act. It was supposed to be Times New Viking (part of the reason we had got tickets)…

    Did you notice how many of the women were dressed in a manner that resembled Chan Marshall’s style? It’s a look I find appealing, so I should have been in heaven, but the ubiquity almost started to creep me out in a Stepford sort of way…

  6. alexis

    I’m the same as you. I saw her once, like her voice, but think she has a boring stage show and was completely unprofessional. When I went, it was an all ages show during the day at Richards and there were kids there.

Comments are closed.