Cat Power at Scout Bar, 12/12/2013
Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Cat Power, Nico Turner Scout Bar December 12, 2013
It's always fascinating to hear stories of concerts past from friends, parents and grandparents, because like watching a movie or visiting a museum, each artist only gets a few hours to make an impression. But unlike other activities, nearly every person you ask has a concert or two that will stick with them for a lifetime.
And though it shouldn't be surprising, it's safe to say that Cat Power solidified her place in the memories of an entire audience after her solo performance at Scout Bar last night.
Following opener Nico Turner -- an impressive, experimental powerhouse -- Cat Power (otherwise known as Chan Marshall) took the stage with guitar in hand and dived head first into covers of "House of the Rising Sun" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
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Despite the fact that she performed Main Stage with her band at this year's Free Press Summer Fest, it's the first time she's toured Houston since a stop at Warehouse Live in 2008, and the first time as a solo artist since she played at Fat Cat's in 2004.
Perhaps that's why Scout Bar was comfortably full, despite the fact that it was one hell of a cold Thursday evening.
Even so, as Marshall transitioned into her original material (such as "Hate" and "Great Expectations,") it was clear that she was pulling out the big guns, making up for lost time and even, perhaps, trying to show just what she was made of.
By now, most Cat Power fans are aware of Marshall's dark past. Throughout her nearly two-decade career, she has openly admitted to issues with anxiety, alcohol abuse, as well issues in regards to her love life. Unfortunately, because those aspects of her life are so frequently talked about, Marshall is often sold short of her talent before being tossed aside.
But time and time again, Marshall has been able to prove that whether she's performing solo or with a band, she isn't a woman you can easily ignore.
As she stood onstage, Marshall transitioned her songs with ease. If she fumbled for a chord, she simply played it off before settling into the next track. It's not an easy thing to do - play for nearly three hours with little to no pause -- but after spending an evening with Marshall, it's clear that she isn't just a musician. She's an artist.
After playing five tracks on the guitar, Marshall finally took a break, scooped up a cup of hot tea and sat down at a grand piano where she pounded out ten songs. Yes, Marshall does have a habit of speaking so softly that it's sometimes hard to hear, but the audience was so quiet and attentive that her stories could be heard throughout the room.
In between "Names," "The Greatest" and her cover of Mary J. Blige's "Deep Inside," Marshall spoke of writing songs in Hollywood hotels and hitchhiking across France, painting a portrait of a life lived to the fullest. By the time she got to "Make Me Feel So Bad," men and women of all ages all seemed to be brought to their knees from the simplistic beauty she had composed.
Though Marshall is often regarded as an "indie darling," she is that and much, much more.
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With husky, controlled vocals that are better suited for Jones Hall or Cullen Center, Marshall was able to navigate her way through tracks that displayed all of her experience, pain, fears and hopes. And though she could have easily become a guarded mess, Marshall allowed her soul to escape onto the stage without ever trying to rein it in.
As she stood up to take to the front of the stage with her guitar once more, she lit a cigarette, joking about being "tight with Coolio" before being gifted two dozen red and white roses from a set of 19-year old twins.
As the evening went on, fans started to shout out "I love you" or a request, which Marshall would happily respond to. And though she avoided eye contact early in the evening, Marshall was joking with a sweet, flirtatious flair that felt as comfortable and familiar as an old friend.
"Most of the things I play, people don't know because I haven't recorded," she explained as she finished an unknown song with French lyrics. The audience, however, didn't seem to mind, especially due to her willingness to perform fan favorites, including her cover of Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love."
Towards the end of her set, Marshall began to interact more with the crowd, asking about NASA budget cuts and what kind of jobs Houston is known for, before moving on to her last track, "Love and Communication."
It's almost hard to believe that talent this true exists, because it's the kind of raw ability that can't be created or sold. And despite what you might have heard elsewhere, Marshall is at the top of her game; Houston was just lucky enough to experience it first-hand.
The Crowd: A mixture of men and women of all ages.
Overheard In the Crowd: "She's so hot. I want to make out with her!" (In reference to Marshall.)
Random Notebook Dump: It's really interesting to watch Cat Power perform among paraphernalia from bands like Slipknot, Papa Roach and Godsmack.
Personal Bias: I've loved Cat Power since high school, and this was my first chance to see her live. But after reading some less-than-favorable reviews, I grew skeptical. In the end, this was the kind of Cat Power set I've always dreamt of.
SET LIST (SELECTIONS)
House of the Rising Sun (The Animals cover) (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Rolling Stones cover) Hate Fool Great Expectations Let Me Go Can I Get a Witness (Marvin Gaye cover) Names Colors and the Kids (Unknown) The Greatest (Unknown) Maybe Not Make Me Feel So Bad Deep Inside (Mary J. Blige Cover) (Unknown) Still In Love (Unknown) Sweedeedee (Michael Hurley cover) He Was A Friend of Mine (The Byrds cover) (Unknown) Sea of Love (Phil Phillips cover) I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover) Good Woman The Moon Babydoll Say Knocking On Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan cover) (Unknown) Werewolf (Michael Hurley Cover) Metal Heart Love and Communication
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