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CAT POWER @ Chevron Gardens gets 6/10

Cat Power @ Chevron Gardens

w/ Carla Geneve
Thursday, February 14, 2019


I’m pretty sure that Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has been my Valentine more than once in the 20 years since I first fell for her quiet emotional ballads and velvety vocals. This year, on February 14, I made it official when Cat Power played Chevron Gardens. Marshall cancelled her last scheduled Australian tour, so hats off to Perth Festival for making this visit happen. The sold out show was evidence of an appetite to have Cat Power back.

Local artist Carla Geneve, sans her band, played a set ahead of Cat Power to an already packed Chevron Gardens. It’s always a genuine delight to witness a new audience discovering Carla, and her hook-filled songs, catchy lyrics and effortlessly powerful delivery. This night was no exception, as folks responding with cheers mid-song in some of the climactic moments, particularly during the then-unreleased new single, 2001. We also heard singles Listening and Greg’s Discount Chemist.

Cat Power took the stage to loud praise. At the risk of getting a little like a tabloid magazine here, I was excited to see her wearing a black gown from Susie Cave’s The Vampire’s Wife clothing label. Her hair back to its signature shoulder-length-with-fringe, she looked beautiful, was glowing, and seemingly strong and healthy. This is relevant because, for much of the 2010s Marshall has been very open on social media about struggling with health and financial issues, and in fact, cancelled her last planned tour to Australia due to poor health.

The opening song was 1998’s He Turns Down, which led into the first of several medleys which wove together parts of her own and others’ songs. By the end of the night, we’d heard bits of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, James Carr, Sinead O’Connor, Nico, Frank Ocean, a mashup of The Boys Next Door and INXS which she dedicated to the late Conway Savage, and a Dirty Three song and Lana Del Ray song in full. It felt like a real show-show, that she had put a lot of work into. Almost like the indie-folk version of a Vegas show.

There were times during the performance where the audience seemed disengaged, and even a thinning out of the crowd at the mid-point. Despite having a full band in tow, the selection of songs and the delivery of them was low key. Marshall’s vocals are wonderful, her band were tight, the sound was magic, but Cat Power’s style is essentially quiet and minimal. We heard only one track from 2013’s Sun, which is her most upbeat sounding album. It had me wondering if this set would work better in an indoor seated venue. Towards the end, we heard favourites like Woman, Good Woman (which she announced with affection that she had written in Byron Bay) and The Moon, so that the crowd’s energy picked up and we were sad to see her go.


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