Cat Power struggles at Mill City Nights

CINDAL LEE HEART | Updated 10/31/2012

Amid news of bankruptcy and sickness, the indie favorite lashed out at the press Tuesday during an uneven performance.

Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, berated a photographer from the stage during Tuesday's show at Mill City Nights.
Chris Riemenschneider

On Tuesday night, Minneapolis saw what has previously been labeled as “a train wreck”. Chan Marshall - or her artist moniker, Cat Power – stopped by Mill City Nights in support of her recent album release, “Sun.” With the weighted burden of hype built around the success of “Sun,” and the overwhelmingly questionable reviews of early tour dates, Marshall was under plenty of pressure from the get-go. Not to mention the recent news that she may cancel the European portion of her tour due to financial and health concerns.

Cold and impatient fans entered the venue at 8 p.m. A last minute local opener, the adequately named Entrance Band, did nothing much but “fill” until 10 p.m., the expected set time for Cat Power. Things didn’t quite go according to plan; Marshall and her band took the stage almost an hour late. The crowd was noticeably frustrated, though enthusiastic upon her entrance.

Shadowed behind a bleak new persona, Cat Power stood before a backdrop of dreamy imagery - a scene of blue skies and billowy clouds, surrounded by laser lights and fog. Burning incense cut through the lights, only adding to the deceivingly comfortable image Cat Power attempted to portray. The scene only highlighted her jagged blond mohawk, black leather jacket and porcelain face.

From the first notes of her first song, “Cherokee,” Marshall struggled. The sound was off, her pre-recorded backing vocals weren’t in sync; her voice sounded like it was bouncing off concrete walls from a blown-out amplifier. The audience stood in silence, as if patiently waiting for the sound crew to get Chan in key. But the sound crew wasn’t at fault - it was Marshall’s own decompressed vocals and aloof performance. The issues continued into her second song, “Sun,” at which point audience members began whispering in concern. This wasn’t the dreamy, acoustic songstress that many had hoped for. Instead, Cat Power waffled around the microphone stand as if she was drunk, or even worse, lost. 

Nearing the end of the second song, Marshall stopped singing entirely. She started mumbling past the microphone off in the corner of the stage, which soon turned to full-on yelling at a man in the crowd. “What are you holding sir? What is on that badge, can you please hold it up?!,” she yelled. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I want to see what is on that badge!” When the photographer produced his credentials, Marshall became even more aggravated. “No photo badges - there’s no fucking press at this show!”

Moving along as if nothing had happened, Marshall tore into “3, 6, 9,” leaving few audience members impressed. At this point, people started piling out of the venue. Others talked amongst themselves and checked their cell phones. Ignoring the disaster on stage, the clatter throughout the crowd sounded more depressing than the actual performance. Fans were not happy. Among the snippets from the crowd: “I can’t believe I paid $40 for this!” and “She looks messed up on something, it’s kind of sad …”  

It was a disheartening spectacle. The Cat Power we all know and love seems to be non-existent at this point in her career. The new album, although energetic and powerful, seems to be a studio effort for Marshall and nothing more. Her live performances continue to struggle, producing nothing more than an awkwardly distant Cat Power in need of help.  

The latter half of the set regained a bit more consciousness. By the time she performed fan-favorite “I Don’t Blame You,” Marshall had turned her catastrophic performance into a soulful rendition of her melancholic classic, on key and in rhythm. Though it may have been too late, with one-third of the crowd already dispersed and no encore, and it was clear that Marshall was sacrificing her well being for the sake of her tour.

Set List: "Cherokee" / "Sun" / "3, 6, 9" / Human Being" / "King Rides By" / Manhattan" / "Angelitos Negros"  (Pedro Infante cover) / "The Greatest" / "Silent Machine" / "Back in the Days" (cut) / "Nothin' But Time" / "Peace and Love" / "I Don’t Blame You" / "Ruin" / "Ramblin’ Woman"