The Old Cat Power Peeks Out at New-Era Show

Photo: Kate Glicksberg

For a minute there, it looked like Cat Power's show at Terminal 5 would culminate with her rolling out one of those T-shirt cannons you see at outdoor rock festivals. She actually stopped just short of that, peeling off shirts from a bundle and tossing them, daintily, into an audience you'd think lacked clothing of any kind, but the message was abundantly clear: She was here to please the crowd. Chan Marshall is apparently conducting the second tour in her much-discussed new sober era like a sketch-show ninja: Dressed all in black, hair in a ponytail, she flitted across the stage, took karate-kick stances with one leg aloft, and turned her microphone sideways, arm out, like she was holding a pair of nunchakus.

But as the night went on — through a rushed first half and a powerful, more leisurely second half — it began to seem more like she was simply holding the microphone, a possible source of the feedback that had her peppering lyrics with curses, at arm's length. And so emerged shades of the old Cat Power, the one bedeviled by soundmen, prone to mid-show shutdowns, and endlessly characterized as some kind of beautiful freak. At one point, she lay on her back and announced, despairingly, “This is pissing me off.” But her voice (once the soundman turned up her vocals, no doubt risking more feedback — which wasn't, by the way, all that terrible) sounded gorgeous. And once in the swing of things, her backup, the Dirty Delta Blues Band, cooked. In the end, a fine show that nonetheless called to mind antidepressants more than booze could have used the tension, right? —Nick Catucci