Monday, October 13, 2008

Cat Power, Dallas, 10-09-08

Last Thursday I went to see Cat Power at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas. This was the show that was supposed to have happened back in April but was cancelled due to Chan Marshall having voice problems.

I got to the venue early enough to get a spot against the barricade about 5 feet to the left of center stage. Not bad.

The opening act was an outfit called “Appaloosa”. I didn’t know anything about them until the day of the show. They are a 2 person band consisting of a singer and a keyboard player. I was excited to read in one article that they sounded something like “Air fronted by Nico”. I guess the keyboard player couldn’t afford to tour this time, because a MacBook took his place. The singer did sound a little bit like Nico. I didn’t think the backing track sounded much like Air. I didn’t dig it that much. It was OK, but nothing I would seek out on purpose. You can hear some of their songs at their MySpace page.

Luckily there wasn't a terribly long wait after the opening act. The band came out first and started playing, and then Chan came out. There’s still something amazing about hearing that voice in person. I thought everything sounded pretty good. Apparently Chan didn’t agree. She was checking all of the monitors throughout the entire evening. And she kept going over to talk to the soundboard guy on the right side of the stage. Apparently she has been doing this quite often at many of the stops on this tour. I don’t think that venue was the best selection since it’s big and cavernous, and was maybe only half full. I wish whoever does the bookings for CP would do a better job of picking an appropriate venue.

Chan didn’t interact with the crowd too much as far as talking. She did a good job of moving amongst the various parts of the stage. She likes to come up to the front of the stage and lean out while she’s singing, and at times she was right in front of me. I was glad to see that she only smoked one cigarette when she first came out, instead of all throughout the evening.

Overall the show was pretty similar setlist-wise to the last time I saw her, but the vocals sounded better to me this time. Last time I couldn’t understand a word all evening. I was also more familiar with the songs this time. Most of the songs that were played were from the last 2 albums, although there were a few from an upcoming EP of covers (including “Fortunate Son”, which was really cool). About 6 songs before the end of the show Chan brought out Teenie Hodges, who is a legendary Memphis guitar player, and he played with the band until the end of the show. Teenie played with Al Green back in the 70s, and he has cowritten many famous songs such as “Take Me To The River”, “Love and Happiness”, and “Here I Am, Come And Take Me”. He also played all of the guitar on CP’s “The Greatest” album. They played for 2 hours with no encore.

I thought the show was pretty good, but there was something that kept it from being transcendent. I think part of it was that all of the futzing around about the sound may have killed some of the momentum and kind of transferred some of Chan’s anxiety to the audience. If she hadn’t seemed so bothered by it, I don’t think anyone in the audience would’ve given the sound a second thought. And I think that Chan maybe didn’t connect with the audience as much as she could have (despite the gesture described below). There was almost no banter at all, and her tendency to stay out of the spotlight hindered that connection a little bit too. It was hard to see when she would crack a smile or look out at the audience.

There’s also something about these songs live that seems to make them sound a lot alike. There are not a lot of changes in tempo or dynamics – everything seems to settle into a similar groove that gets a little repetitive after a while. I think Chan could benefit from mixing in some numbers that just feature her singing and playing guitar or piano. Maybe she could bring some of her older material into the mix more too. I think that I prefer the way that the records sound over the live versions that I’ve personally heard. Chan has an amazing voice, but she’s not a belter. I think her voice is a little quiet for the band setup that she has. On record it is balanced better than in the live setting. I guess that’s why she gets so freaked out about the sound mix. But maybe I’ve just been unlucky, because there are some YouTube videos of live shows out there that sound great. All of that said, however, I will still go see her the next time she comes to town.

I didn’t try to take my camera inside. The website says “no cameras”, and I just had a feeling that they wouldn’t let me in with it. They may have though, because there were a lot of people with handhelds. There was also the fact that I almost got kicked out last time for taking pictures, and that supposedly Chan herself decreed that no photos would be taken last time. It’s OK though, because just like last time it was pretty dark, and really I didn’t feel like messing with it. Chan apparently hates having the spotlight on her. Literally. In fact, the official photogs that were there were actually using flash. There’s a nice slide show here. My favorite photo is the one where Chan is handing out flowers.

Speaking of flowers, toward the end of the show an enormous bunch of flowers was brought out from backstage, and before the last song Chan proceeded to hand (and sometimes throw) them to the audience. I was thrilled that she handed me a rose. She then proceeded to give a rose to each member of the band as well as the sound board operator.

I totally got gypped as far as getting a setlist. The only people trying to get setlists were myself and the couple that had been next to me all night. There were about 5 setlists taped down on the stage. I asked one of the roadies but he didn’t acknowledge me. I then asked the security guy if he could hand me the crumpled up piece of paper with the Spanish lyrics to Angelitos Negros that Chan had pulled from her back pocket and read from while she was singing. It was tantalizingly close to the front of the stage. But he said that they weren’t allowed to take anything from the stage, and then another security guard came over and made us all leave. Crap.

After navigating the restroom with rose in hand (not a euphemism), I exited the venue and saw Gregg Foreman (keyboardist) and Jim White (drummer) talking with someone that Gregg apparently knew. Gregg saw me looking at him, and I kind of think he was thinking “oh crap, I hope this weirdo doesn’t talk to me”. I didn’t. But I did tap Jim on the shoulder, and when he turned around I said “great show”. He said “thanks” and stuck out his hand, which I then shook. And I meant it – everyone in that band is a badass.

OK, as with Beck, this setlist is from memory and is not in order for the most part. I didn’t feel like taking notes, I just wanted to enjoy the show. So I may have left a song or two out. I haven’t seen a setlist anywhere else to fall back on.

Ramblin’ (Wo)Man
Fortunate Son
Silver Stallion
Metal Heart
Lord, Help the Poor & Needy
Song to Bobby
Woman Left Lonely
Lost Someone
Don’t Explain
Keyboard & bass interlude
She’s Got You
Lived In Bars
I Don’t Blame You
Life of the Party
Making Believe
Dark End of the Street
Where Is My Love
I’ve Been Loving You
The Moon
I Feel
The Greatest
Angelitos Negros

Gilley's is part of the same club complex

Here is my offical Chan Marshall rose!



Blogger paintergirl said...

'kicked out of the palladium...'

Yes, I am jealous. Pretty cool she had Teenie. All too familiar with the Rev. Green. Maybe Chan could do some covers to mix things up. A Stones tune, maybe maybe a New Order song. Really slow.I love her voice, and songs but I could see how it would be samey,mcsame.

Groovy that you got a flower. To heck with the grouchy security guys. You got a flower.

10/13/2008 11:00 AM  
Blogger JC said...

Al Green is the shit!

Actually, all but 7 of these songs (I think) were covers. "Dreams" was the Fleetwood Mac song. It was so different though that I didn't even know that's what it was until I read a review of the Phoenix show a couple of days later. Cat's version was pretty cool. It's on a lot of the CP torrents that are at dimeadozen.

10/14/2008 8:59 PM  
Blogger hollibobolli said...

She sounds like a hoot to see frequently. I have no idea how you remember these setlists. it's insane. Did you dry or press the rose?

10/16/2008 3:55 AM  
Blogger JC said...

Insane is right - I spent hours tracking down setlists from other tour stops, reading reviews, and listening to torrents to try and remember all of the songs. Like when I read the review from Phoenix and it described the keyboard part in "Dreams", and then I heard it on the show from the Hollywood Bowl, I remembered that she played it here. Crazy!

I dried it.

10/16/2008 6:16 AM  

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