Cat Power Palladium Ballroom October 9, 2008
Better Than: ...unfortunately, not as many things as you'd hope.
Download: Here's a slide show from the performance.
Almost two hours after starting her set at the Palladium Airplane Hangar last night, Chan Marshall, the alluring chanteuse behind the Cat Power moniker, waved goodnight to her audience.
And, after a few more wails, she was finally ready to leave the stage--although not without breaking character and finally speaking, albeit briefly, to the crowd.
"Thank you so much for letting us play such an amazing show for you," she said, before finally exiting.
It was a nice sentiment, sure. And, actually, a bold-faced lie.
Cat Power's show last night could hardly be described as "amazing."
Rather, it was underwhelming, overindulgent, and, dare I say, something of a beating.
For two hours, a distant Marshall casually strutted back and forth across the Palladium stage, singing her heart out, sure, but never connecting with her audience. Very little blame, actually, belonged to Marshall, though.
Her set didn't fail for her lack of trying. Throughout the night, the singer tried to find ways to get the ambiance of the room just right, for optimal Cat Power digestion. But, no matter how many times she walked to the side of the stage to converse with the venue's monitor worker, Marshall never seemed comfortable with various elements of the room's sound and lighting. At one point, during an instrumental interlude from her four-piece backing band, she even twiddled the knobs of the monitor herself.
Unfortunately, all this effort did was highlight the issues she was having onstage. Marshall's literal lack of comfort in the venue's spotlight didn't help either. Despite Marshall's obvious concerns with connecting with her audience, her multiple waving-offs of the venue's spotlight being placed on her further distracted--and seemed counterproductive. The audience, no doubt, had come to the Palladium to see Cat Power perform. Instead, because Marshall preferred the venue's backlighting to its spotlight, the crowd rarely saw the singer in much clarity.
Given the cavernous nature of the venue, where, unless the room is packed, it can be near-impossible to create any sort of intimacy, this was the last thing Marshall needed
Not surprising, then, that only about half of the venue's 600 or so attendees remained by the time her set ended.
What did those who left early miss? Well, a few things of note: Teenie Hodges, the former Al Green guitarist who recorded on Cat Power's The Greatest, joined the singer on stage for the final 45 minutes or so of her show; Marshall, toward the end of her set, finally managed to squeeze in older favorites, like "Where Is My Love?" and "The Greatest"; and, just before leaving, the singer thankfully tossed flowers to her fans.
Unfortunately, though, the flowers fell on deaf ears: The audience members who remained were blinded with fandom--by the time this gesture came, many of the people who'd actually be impressed by the kind move had left for the night.
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I like Cat Power...from time to time. Her voice is undeniably hers and inarguably lush, but I don't really think her music best served in large doses. An hour and fifteen minutes? I'd probably really enjoy that. But two hours? By the end of the set, things were dragging. The large empty spaces on the Palladium's floor at the end of the show no doubt proved that I wasn't alone in this thinking.
Random Note: This show was booked to make up for the date Cat Power canceled back in April when she hurt her vocal cords.
By The Way: Doesn't look like Cat Power's the only well-established artist having a difficult time drawing audiences to the Palladium complex. Every crowd member who made it to the end of last night's show was awarded two free passes to next week's Robert Pollard show in the much smaller Loft space. --Pete Freedman