By: Ryo Miyauchi
The stage was still too dark to see when Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, began her set at Belly Up Tavern. Once I heard that signature rasp, though, there was no mistake that I was watching the one and only Cat Power. Billed as a solo show, the set solely had Marshall playing guitar and piano for almost an hour and a half. A fan couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Marshall first ran down songs with her guitar like “Hate” and “Fool.” The songs sounded chilling in its sparseness, just like how it sounds in her beloved albums, The Greatest and You Are Free. Her choices for guitar songs lied more on a somber mood, so the warm twangs from The Greatest was absent for the evening. But for those who have been acquainted with her early, more private albums from the ‘90s, the atmosphere felt just right.
After a couple songs, Marshall put down the guitar to hop on the piano. “Sorry, all you can see is this,” she apologized while waving her hands around her head for whom the big grand piano blocked their view. She started with a cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and on she went with her work on the piano.
Some in the audience cheered as they heard the chords for “The Greatest,” but she then abruptly stopped in the middle. She ran her hands across the keys to give a big sweep in frustration. “I’m sorry, I can’t concentrate,” she said while getting herself together for the next song in line.
Concentration and composure were hard to keep for Marshall throughout the night. She played through a couple songs after her initial bump, but she paused the show to ask the crowd for a cigarette to ease her mind. During her impromptu smoke break, she asked the audience to sit down as she continued to play. The fans on the GA floor then all took a seat in unison.
Marshall got her groove back on the piano as she ran through a medley of songs, including “3, 6, 9,” “Names” and “I Don’t Blame You.” The crowd stood back up while Marshall transitioned back to guitar. Though she fidgeted with her dual-mic setup in between songs, she went on smoothly through her second guitar run with songs like “Good Woman” and “Remember Me.”
As she re-tuned her guitar to play the next song, Marshall again ran into some trouble. She couldn’t get the sound just right, eventually going backstage to deal with it on her own. Finally she started to play “Say”, and her lyric, “never give up, no, never give up,” from the song was the most apt lyric for her to sing.
Marshall returned to the piano one more time to bid farewell to the crowd. She wanted to share some parting words, but she had a bit of a struggle to get it out. “I’m having a hard time concentrating,” she apologized again. “But I want to tell you I’m thankful and grateful.” She promised the next time she performs in San Diego, she won’t be stumbling over her words or giving up completely. But after Marshall giving such an honest performance, I wouldn’t want it any other way.