9/17/05 - London, England, Barbican Center, "Dont Look Back"

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9/17/05 - London, England, Barbican Center, "Dont Look Back"

Post  Cokelike on Sat 4 Aug - 4:28

9/17/05 - London, England, Barbican Center, "Dont Look Back"

Setlist:
Satisfaction
Kingsport Town
Troubled Waters
Naked If I Want To
Sweedeedee
In This Hole
I Found A Reason
Wild Is The Wind
Red Apples
Paths Of Victory
Salty Dog
Sea Of Love
House Of The Rising Sun


This concert was part of the "Dont Look Back" series of concerts. The idea is that each musician performs one of their albums live. For this concert Chan played "The Covers Record". Following this Chan played a 12 date midwest tour in October.

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Review

When I first heard that All Tomorrow's Parties were organising a series of concerts in which their favourite artists performed their favourite albums, straight-up, live, I must confess that I immediately thought of Cat Power. I had heard stories about Cat Power gigs descending into utter chaos - leaving the audience as confused as Chan (pronounced 'Shawn') herself seems to be. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity for Chan to perform her songs, or in this case her versions of others' songs, as they are meant to be heard.

All Tomorrow's Parties had asked her to perform 2000's The Covers Record in its entirety. Perhaps they consider this to be her most important work, and perhaps it is - her approach to recording covers is unlike almost anyone else, or maybe it was selected because its sparseness means that she is able to play these songs without the need for additional musicians.

As expected, she performs alone. The Barbican's huge stage seems like an unnecessarily grand backdrop for these fragile songs, especially littered with Múm's vast array of synthesisers and other electronic gadgetry. Chan sits towards the left side of the stage, huddled over her guitar, gently strumming the opening chords to (I can't get no) Satisfaction. This is barely a whisper of a song; the Rolling Stones classic removed of all its macho posturing, its chorus, and reduced simply to four chords to reveal a simple poignancy - the listener hears the frustration at the heart of the song laid bare. Much of the album takes a similar approach, and, as expected, the evening's concert follows the album almost exactly. There is very little stage banter; it is clear that Chan is still uncomfortable with performing, but there is a sense that Chan is going to finish her set - not baffle the audience with ill-advised Elvis impersonations, or demand to have the house lights turned on.

Cat Power switches to piano for In This Hole, a song that also appears, albeit in a rather different version, on 1996's What Would the Community Think?. Covering her own song might seem bizarre, and a little narcissistic, but it is one of the highlights of the album, and, live, one of the highlights of the evening. Here, the fragility of the lyrics is almost too much for her voice to bear: 'In this hole we have fixed/We get further and further/Further from this world'.

The last song on the record, Sea of Love (originally by Phil Phillips and the Twilights), is played on an auto-harp, and although Chan initially appeared to have forgotten how to play this instrument, her warm vocals work well, set against the gentle drone that the auto-harp produces. She finishes the evening with by playing House of the Rising Sun, a song that countless musicians have played over the years, and yet Chan succeeds in making it her own - an unmistakable, bare-bones - almost to the point of falling apart, farewell.

For the second part of the evening, Múm had the unenviable task of following Cat Power. The Icelandic band, made up of Gunnar Örn Tynes, Örvar Oreyjarson Smárason, and Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir - and helped by several other musicians, were to perform their debut album, Yesterday was Dramatic - Today is Ok, which was originally released in 2000.

This album is a wonderful blend of glitchy electronica, occasionally reminiscent of Aphex Twin, and more traditional, almost folky instrumentation. The influence of the Icelandic landscape is apparent in the harsh electronic samples, but there is a warmness in their use of accordion and melodica. Most of these songs are instrumental, and because there are so many different sounds being played all at the same time, the effect is similar to a lullaby - the songs seem to wash over the audience. There is a complexity here too - the interesting textures of songs like There Is a Number of Small Things, and Smell Memory, display a sort of hazy intricacy. In a similar way to Cat Power, the strength of Múm lies in their ability to make these songs sound so simple, and so seamlessly beautiful. Both acts seem to possess an uncanny ability to produce stark, haunting works that seem to compliment each other by being on the same bill, making for a truly rewarding concert.

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