The award for best-dressed crowd goes to the audience for Cat Power at the Bruce Mason Theatre, Friday 22 February. Perfectly coiffed and wearing clothes that make them look like contenders for Stuff’s Daily Street Style blog, they gather in their hundreds like extras on a glamorous film set.
Another award-winner is opening act Chelsea Jade Metcalf, AKA Watercolours, who won the New Zealand Music Awards Critics Choice Award last year. Sometimes strident, better soft, Metcalf is consistently entertaining throughout her half hour set. Between her moody and atmospheric songs she teases the crowd with quirky one-liners such as “I can’t even see, I’m wearing my Dad’s contact lenses” and “my mum’s in the audience – if she’s standing up someone give up your seat”. Pitchy at first, Metcalf relaxes during the set and though her backing tracks never get quite loud enough her singing soon hits all the right notes.
As cool as the audience members are, Chan Marshall out-awesomes them all. Taking the stage at 9.45pm after cranking Dylan’s Shelter from The Storm through the speakers, she and her band dive straight into a spine-tingling rendition of The Greatest. Her husky, lived-in voice is at once earthy and ethereal as she howls about thwarted ambition and ruined dreams.
Next up is Cherokee from new album Sun. When Chan says she’s in pain you best believe she’s in pain and she sings the word with raw emotion. She takes a quick pause to tell us all how much she loves us before bursting into a rousing version of Silent Machine which features two drummers pounding in unison on two kits, and a ferocious guitar duel.
Manhattan is lighter and more mystical, but is swamped by the over-enthusiastic lighting that shrouds the band throughout most of the entire set. The consistently annoying lights and a rockier approach to the track also mean that King Rides By loses some intimacy, but the band pick out the snaky, addictive beat with such glee perhaps it doesn’t really matter. And intimacy sure isn’t lacking a few moments later on Bully where Marshall’s plaintive voice breaks over notes slowly dripped from a guitar.
Marshall showcases her astounding abilities by performing a spectacular rendition of Angelitos Negros (a Pedro Infante song somewhat in the style of Ne Me Quitte Pas), segueing into pure pop on Nothin’ But Time and then unleashing a bluesy version of Cat Power classic I Don’t Blame You.
“I just wanna say thank you again and again and again. I love you all. I wouldn’t be here…” says Marshall before launching into the fifteenth and final song of the night, Ruin. The crowd goes crazy and Marshall winds them up even more by lifting up an enormous bunch of flowers and throwing them, stem by stem, into the audience. The band leave the stage but she stays under the lights for a few more moments, blasts some Kanye West, throws some more flowers and then waves goodbye and disappears.
Kathryn van Beek
Cat Power set list:
1. The Greatest
3. Silent Machine
5. Human Being
6. King Rides By
9. Angelitos Negros
12. Nothin’ But Time
13. I Don’t Blame You
14. Peace And Love
Click on any photo to see a gallery of concert shots taken by Tim Armstrong: