We Went There: Cat Power
April 1st, 2019 at The Varsity Theater in Minneapolis was a Monday made for lovers, not fools, with a stop by Cat Power a.k.a. Chan Marshall in support of her latest album “The Wanderer”. It’s been six years since her last studio recording and accompanying tour so the crowd was eager to catch a rare live performance of this talented performer. There were undoubtedly many hopes of hearing her songs from her new LP as well as her earlier work, which spans 23 years over multiple classic albums, the best known being 2006’s “The Greatest”. With such a deep pool of music to choose from, I personally could only hope to hear a fraction of what I had on my own personal playlist.
The doors to the Varsity opened at 7pm, with a small crowd gathered to ensure they would be able to find a prized spot near the stage. Little did anyone know there would be no opening band, and that Cat Power would not take the stage for another hour and a half. Everyone who was gathered near me seemed to be taking things in stride as they anxiously waited. Surely this was going to be a special night, and Cat Power’s vocals were the fuel to light a fire that would be burning for hours.
Promptly at 8:30 the band took the stage, accompanied by a peaceful aroma floating through the air. Cat Power emerged, incense in hand, from behind the stage to a sea of red light, fog, and cheers from around the venue. The first song of the night was “He Turns Down”, from the 1998 album “Moon Pix”. Marshall swayed back and forth behind dual microphones placed mid-stage, as a quiet came across the room. The rest was pure magic.
“Thank you, I love you, take care of you.”
“Have you ever seen the face? You know the one I’m talking about.” echoed Marshall’s smoky vocals from the exposed brick walls of the Varsity, and over the near capacity crowd. A fleeting smile came across her face as she looked at those gathered nearest the stage. Marshall’s voice was mixed high above her accompanying band on drums, guitar, and keyboard, filling the room with a haunting sound that transfixed everyone in attendance. Soon she was maneuvering through a medley of cover songs, passing the incense in her hand to someone in the crowd.
The crowd swooned to a moving performance of the track “Song to Bobby” from her Jukebox LP, also a personal favorite I was hoping to hear. As one song blended into the next, a majority of the set list was dominated by earlier work spanning a majority of the Cat Power discography. I couldn’t help but think that a most of those in attendance who’ve listened to Chan over the years probably heard at least one “must hear” song, if not two or three tracks.
About an hour into the evening, “Cross Bones Style” began, and I realized I had reached a point where I couldn’t think about much of anything else I had done that day. Over the course of the performance I had been transported to a calm peaceful place where I could reflect about life. This is the power of Cat Power. Through every LP I have listened to over the years, I have always felt this way. There’s a certain timeless sound, that hits to the core of my being. I realized I am not alone in loving this artist, and that her appeal is cross-generational. Cat Power speaks to that most pure human emotion: love.
Ending the evening with “The Moon”, Marshall left everyone with a simple message: “Thank you, I love you, take care of you.” Something landed in my eye, really. What a memorable evening.
He Turns Down
Nick / Dark / Dont / Sinead
Nico / Song to Bobby
Pa Pa Power
In Your Face
Cross Bones Style
Christopher Goyette is a live music and event photographer in Minneapolis.