Cat Power, Town Hall, Saturday, February 23.
Chan Marshall should change her stage name: Cat Power to Underwhelm would be more accurate.
Last time she played New Zealand she did her best to curl up and hide inside the songs; this time she pushed them away from herself, sending them out into a haze of mood-lighting, dismissing them, dispelling them; almost as soon as she arrives, with manicured nonchalance, you have to wonder if as many people are there to see the new short blonde hair as they are to hear a version of I Don't Blame You.
Opening with a transmogrification of The Greatest - all funereal lurch in an almost hammy quest for longing - it was a set of go-nowhere songs, a beautiful voice buried, dumped on and over by double-drumming and incongruous guitar squall.
When the head-bowed guitar pixie failed to draw people into the allure, Cat Power called time on that and reinvented herself as a soul singer with horns and a hint of something majestic lurking in the wings.
Now, with her most recent album, Sun, and yet another style makeover, she is a pop star. A very boring pop star.
Watching Cat Power live is a case of waiting for something to happen. It's all musical shade-cloth drapery, the music a big swirl and wash that leaves nothing resembling presence once the wave crashes.
Songs from Sun started to blur, audience members seemed sure it was a second coming because - when you could hear it - the voice is beautiful. But having a great voice doesn't cover for uninspired songs.
And the Town Hall, so often the right venue, sounded muddy, and was maybe as much to blame for the music seeming lost as for the way Cat Power simply shrugs it off, dumping it at the crowd's feet.
I say "crowd" - but a big part of the problem was an undersold concert; yes, yes, the appeal is not waning, simply becoming more selective.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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