Caterpillar Power

We were driving up to Boulder to see Cat Power last Friday. On the way was a phone call offering us tickets to Cirque de Soleil. We opted to see Chan Marshall in all her glory and pass on the circus tickets. What we got was a circus of our own.

I had never seen Chan Marshall live before but I have read enough reviews to understand that she has incredible stage fright and is prone to mini-breakdowns, rantings & ravings, false starts, rambling, and occasionally straight-up abandoning her audience. So, when she arrived on stage forty minutes late, I was just glad that she decided to show up. She sat down with her guitar and immediately tore through three great songs. Soon her mic started making a low rumbling sound… and then the wheels fell off.

Chan wondered if the rumbling that was coming through the speakers was buffalo or thunder, and quipped it must be buffalunder, and then stated that she wished that was a word someone would use to describe her ass. It was moments like these that made the audience laugh. However, much of the night the audience was unprepared or unwilling to accept Chan’s blunt personality and stretched-beyond-limits character and ended up wincing, shifting uncomfortably and often simply leaving because of how uncomfortable they felt.

Chan then proceeded to stumble through a half-dozen songs unable to actually complete any of them.

She continually complained about the sound but complimented the theatre. She said that, had she still been drinking, this show would probably prompt her to commit suicide. She wished for a “psychedelic sound button” on her piano and across the elementary classrooms of America. She talked of having her period, picking her crack, butt-crack, and “all her cracks”. She talked about getting sober and the vices picked up from becoming straight, all the while ashing her cigarette into her shirt pocket. She talked about old friends, and her childhood, and politics (feebly). She slammed her hands on the piano in frustration, left the stage for a little bit fuming with dissatisfaction, asking for the magic to return. She sat in silence for extended periods, and had the audience in silence , wondering if any sort of shouting or clapping would send her shattering into pieces. When the audience did scream, it was usually words of encouragement to, “keep on going!”, “it sounds great”, and “don’t worry Chan, we love you”.

Having no back up band to push her though finishing any songs Chan was free to stop in middle of songs, start in the middle of songs and just mash up a bunch of songs together –and she did.

She eventually finished her two-and-a-half hour set by singing an a capella version of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”, tinkling on the piano trying to decide what to play, then announcing to the audience thanks for listening and that she is going to leave us alone now. She then walked off the stage while pretending to moon the audience.

G described the show as though she were watching a train wreck and couldn’t pull her eyes off craziness on stage. I loved it. I thought it was raw and real, and yes – crazy. But it was so fucking honest that I couldn’t help but root for her every painful minute of the way.

This is not to say every minute was painful. Chan sang beautifully and her piano and guitar playing were superb – when she’d give herself a chance to play them. I loved hearing “Good Women” (Otis Redding cover), “Satisfaction” (Rolling Stones cover), “The Colors And The Kids” and “I Don’t Blame You”. This is a show I thoroughly enjoyed but judging from what others have said, and how many people left the theatre mid-show, my opinion is not a popular one.

Did anyone esle go to this? Does anyone have a set list (somehow I think that may be impossible)?

6 thoughts on “Caterpillar Power”

  1. she just needs to lay off the crack. believe me.

    Moon Pix is seminal and her voice as an aside is enchanting and wonderful…Shortly after she came to notoriety she seemed to become hell bent on destroying herself. As many do. I wonder if, without the attention, if she would be as crippled by what was her initial desire…to just write good songs…Take it home chan, get off the stage, get off the crack, and bring it back to life

  2. Pingback: stereogum: Cat Power Sobers Up

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