Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cat Power & The Dirty Delta Blues Band @ First Avenue (02.11.08)

(photo courtesy Jon Behm Photography)

This was the show Minneapolis Cat Power fans have been waiting for Chan to perform in our city for years. After rather tumultuous shows at The Varsity and Pantages Theatres in recent years, it was time for Chan to silence the naysayers and own a stage for once. And last night, for nearly two hours in front of a packed house at First Ave, she did. Coming out in a black puffy winter vest (perhaps in acknowledgement of the frigid conditions outside) Chan was all smiles, easing her way into ‘Don’t Explain’ to kick off the show. Once she warmed up, the puffy vest came off to reveal a tuxedo vest over black dress shirt combo that Chan would fidget with for the duration of the show, desperately trying to either button or unbutton her shirt all night. Never too comfortable in her own skin, I guess. But that appeared to be the only distraction for her this evening, staying focused and on point with the help of her tight backing band, featuring the Blue Explosions Judah Bauer on guitar, The Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums, keyboardist Gregg Foreman from Delta 72, and onetime Lizard Music member Erik Paparazzi on bass. She played off the bands strength all night, which seemed to take the pressure off her somewhat, and also allowed her to focus on singing her heart out. Her voice was full and rich all night (despite her trying to sneak smoke breaks between songs on the stairs leading up to the stage.)
It was a set that relied mainly on cover songs featured on her new record ‘Jukebox,’ as well as tracks from her last record, “The Greatest.” The arrangements on her own songs were given a fresh, bluesy take by her stellar backing band, and it sounded to me like Chan was taking a cue from her idol Bob Dylan by really reworking some of her old songs like “Willie” and “Could We,” to the point where they hardly resembled the originals. She even sang her ode to Bob ‘Song To Bobby,’ but unfortunately did not do any of his songs (either the wonderful version of ‘I Believe In You’ from Jukebox or ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again’ from the “I’m Not There” Soundtrack would have been wonderful to hear live.) But that is just nit picking. Chan was a true star tonite, dancing around the stage in high spirits, waving to the crowd, truly enjoying being in the spotlight-even vamping like Groucho Marx during band introductions. 
It was refreshing to see, given the meltdowns I’ve witnessed by her in the past. Perhaps it was the fact that the pressure was off her somewhat by singing other people’s songs, that there wasn’t the intensely personal aspect of her own work to struggle through, allowing her the freedom to explore other people’s emotions, not hers. Whatever the case was, she had breathing room on stage and a sense of levity that carried her songs, her band and the covers they played to new heights. And when she had the houselights turned on to see and serenade the crowd with closer ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ everyone in attendance knew we had witnessed a real triumph, at long last, for one of the most original voices in music today.


Don’t Explain
Woman Left Lonely
Silver Stallion
New York
Ramblin’ (Wo)Man
Lost Someone
Aretha, Sing One For Me
Lord Help The Poor & Needy
Metal Heart
She’s Got Your
Song To Bobby
Tracks Of My Tears
Could We
At The Dark End Of The Street
Naked If I Want To
The Moon
Lived In Bars
Where Is My Love
The Greatest
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long

Erik T.

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