Dancing in the Dark

Cat Power at the Orpheum Theatre, February 7, 2008
By MEGAN V. BELL  |  February 12, 2008
GRATITUDE: Cat Power’s fans have earned the thanks Chan Marshall gave them.

If you’re a Cat Power devotee or even a casual fan, you’ve heard the horror stories about Chan Marshall’s live performances, but she’s been repairing that image as of late, as witness last Thursday night’s show at the Orpheum. Marshall strode out on a bluesy instrumental vamp that turned into “Don’t Explain,” a Billie Holiday cover from last month’s Jukebox (Matador). She seemed to revel in her new-found confidence, pouring her soul into the somber numbers and letting her guard down on the upbeat ones — flailing her arms, strutting like a chicken, crumpling to the floor.

Confident, yes, but she also chose to perform in near darkness from the third song in, when she crouched to the ground and gestured to have the spotlight moved from herself to her backing band. Backlit by colored lights, she performed her more recent material; only after exhausting Jukebox — 11 out of the 12 tracks and two songs from the bonus disc — did she move to its direct predecessor, The Greatest, for the remainder of the night. So there was nothing from the aching Moon Pix (apart from her own retuning of “Metal Heart,” which can be found on Jukebox) or What Would the Community Think or even the less tortured You Are Free. But she did give new light to many of the Jukebox numbers: sitting on the blue notes of James Brown’s “Lost Someone” and squeezing them dry; bringing intimacy to Hank Williams’s “Rambling (Wo)man” with a vocal evocative of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons; elevating her version of George Jackson’s “Aretha, Sing One for Me,” twisting and contorting with each melodic line. Her few comments were expressions of gratitude to her fans. As the last notes of “Lived in Bars” faded, she asked for the house lights to come up, drawled, “Thank y’all Boston,” and saluted us. We’d earned it.

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Beth Gibbons, Portishead, Cat Power,  More more >
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