I arrived with mixed feelings about tonight; I had been a moderate fan of Cat Power before being rather taken by her latest album, The Greatest. I had heard the rumors that live, she blows very hot and cold; sometimes enlightened, sometimes frustratingly shambolic.
Then to confuse matters further, the 11-piece band take the stage and launch into a Charlie Parker-style jam. Although compelling, it is completely unexpected and proves to be something of a curve ball from what follows. Much chin stroking ensues.
Cat Power aka Chan Marshall then sheepishly ambles on stage - clutching a mug of tea, looking not unlike a cleaning lady who has taken a wrong turn. Then things begin to make sense, both the music and the preconceptions that I had had, as the band launch into Living Proof. Immediately striking, her voice proves to have other-worldly qualities and absolutely stunning and yes, Marshall herself is restless and quirky but endearingly so. However the strong and tight ensemble of musicians prove to be a muscular, well drilled, accomplished and much needed foil for her.
Later, the band leave the stage and she sings alone, accompanying herself on piano, then guitar. There is a plaintive I Don't Blame You and she turns The Animal's-owned House of the Rising Sun into a mournful strum. In this intimate setting she truly excels herself. The band then return for a rousing finale, including a reinterpretation of Satisfaction as a soulful blues stomp, to great effect. Thrilling stuff.
So, she is great after all.