If you’re stumped for that Christmas gift for that second or third cousin you never see, but are somehow obliged to proffer Yuletide felicitations to, you could do worse than Cat Power’s The Greatest album. Or that is what mucho respected label Matador would prefer you believe.
Which, logic dictates, is the reason that Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band are back in the dirty old town of London so soon after their Barbican show earlier this year, as said record has been re-released / repackaged just in time for all the Jesus-inspired stuff.
Of course it would be churlish to say that Chan Marshall isn’t welcome. Having not long confessed on US TV to her battle with the ever-demonic drink, this is a rejuvenated Cat Power who gives every impression of enjoying her music for the very first time.
The principal tune in this regard is tonight’s performance of The Moon. On record, the most basic of circular melodies serves to underline the song’s simple motif of the transience of man to stark effect. Now Chan moves like it’s prom night all over again to a backbeat that brings The Moon down from its fearful orbit of Heraclitus-style angst as though it was born to party like it was 2099.
When the band takes a break, Ms. Marshall sniffs out the chords on the piano that swiftly take the form of I Don’t Blame You. Said to be written in memory of T-shirt salesman Kurt Cobain, Chan mentions the unlikely Nick Rhodes as an admirer of the tune. Then a woman known only as ‘Courtney’, found at the same showbiz party, gets a name check…
Though the lead-in track from 2002’s You Are Free appears almost indistinguishable from the pristine studio version, the tongue-in-cheek celeb name dropping hints that Cat Power is beginning to inhabit a different country than the Indie homeland that’s been only too happy to keep her close to its hearth side.
And given the knowing applause, all conspire to make I Don’t Blame You something of a shoe-in for that eventual ‘Best Of…’. Curious position for a song that speaks of the distrust of audience consensus…
Another Chan change are the moments of rank uncertainty. Or rather lack thereof. House Of The Rising Son, for the first time in this contributor’s experience, is ran through without hesitancy.
Satisfaction reinstates all its gloriously frustrated chorus, and the band’s strings run down the deathless riff with guitar-envy venom. Another conundrum wrapped up in a contradiction, for it seems that Cat Power really is getting satisfaction after all.
Whatever bedevilled Chan Marshall in the past looks to have been banished as surely as Lucifer to the world below. The only question remains is what happens next? Well so far, the news is that even in rapture, Cat still has the power to bewitch.