Singer-songwriter Chan Marshall, also known as Cat Power, swung through Boston on Monday, November 18 during the East Coast stretch of her intimate solo tour. She will move on to grace the Midwest, and culminate her tour up and down the West Coast. Cat Power brings only herself, accentuated by her guitar and piano, to the stages of her solo tour; her band is not accompanying her.
On Monday night, Cat Power filled the Paradise Rock Club in Boston neighborhood Allston, blending a subtle infusion of rock and folk, while emanating the romantic staleness of a basement punk show. Her live voice resonates more intensely than her recorded voice; it carries a rich chocolate flavor, sultriness, and strength.
Cat Power is well-known for her raw, imperfect shows, which is precisely what she delivered. She made music for herself, and not for the audience before her. In a transition between songs, Cat Power asked the audience, “How are you?” which was followed by someone asking her how she was. She retorted that she was working. She poked at the stiffness of Bostonians, declaring that the task that Bostonians do best is drink. In a venue packed with a majority of rowdy young people hanging off the balconies mixed with professionals in their thirties wearing work clothes, Cat Power was out of her element, and certainly working, not trying to impress.
Following her fourth song, Cat Power pulled a cigarette and lighter from her pocket. She declared that she did not intend to respect the no-smoking policies of the concert venue, and lit her cigarette. A smoke trail followed Cat Power to her piano where she smoked half of her cigarette under the golden lights, before stubbing it out on the stage floor.
Cat Power repeatedly restarted her songs two or three times in a row, pausing after a perfect introduction to a song before playing the song in its entirety. Without apology, Cat Power nonchalantly stage whispered “Don’t hate me if I start again.” Each time, the gruff audience fell silent in sympathy before erupting in encouraging clapping and cheering which led Cat Power beyond her song introduction.
After carrying the audience through several phrases of a song, Cat Power would click into her music and fall into her notes. The roughness that she returned to the audience between songs dissolved as she sank into her music. Cat Power sang and picked her guitar with a collision of cerebral intent and emotional investment.
Retreating to sit, or slump, behind her piano after the conclusion of every five songs, the audience would reassuringly wait for her to reemerge. When Cat Power rose, the energy and power she exuded drifted into the uppermost balcony. The cords of her imagination and softness, which only emerged when she was in song, mesmerized the audience.
Over the course of the show, Cat Power transformed a stiff audience into one swaying body. Her raw realness brought an unusual tune to the pace of a Boston Monday night. She turned a cold November night into a warm pocket of Boston.