10/30/05 - Dublin, Ireland, Douglas Hyde Gallery

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10/30/05 - Dublin, Ireland, Douglas Hyde Gallery

Post  Cokelike on Sat 4 Aug - 8:08

10/30/05 - Dublin, Ireland, Douglas Hyde Gallery

Incomplete setlist
House Of The Rising Sun
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Names
Love And Communication
Living Proof


This is first date of a three date (I think), tour of Europe.

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Cat Power at the Douglas Hyde Gallery this afternoon was breathtaking. The new tracks are just so beautiful - if they sound anywhere near as good on record with a full band it could easily be her finest album. At times I was getting goosebumps it was that lovely. The entire audience was awe-struck. The ambience in the venue wholly contributed - candles either side of the stage/platform, the trees in the background... and she kept it together for pretty much the whole gig. What a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Constructing a legend is an interesting but volatile art form. We're not talking Pete Doherty, Sid Vicious or even Elliott Smith here. Today's subject for dissection is Cat Power whose legend has already been laid out as a neatly folded, cobbled pathway of Chinese whispers; from leaving shows after mere minutes to miming onstage to Smoosh songs. Her notoriety for being shy/crazy is connected to the same gossip cogs as Slipknot sicking on each other and Kate Bush ordering bricks of cannabis. This time, nobody knows which Cat will wander in from the rain.

It's 3:32pm and there are lovers on the streets of Dublin, still inebriated from the night before. The winter sun is falling fast. Cat Power is onstage any minute. It's intimate, just me, a piano, a guitar pedal and 80 or so others. We're sat on school chairs in a little white-walled, candle-lit art gallery, to witness the return of Chan Marshall. A little later, she wanders to the stage and the room is hushed. She looks a little nervous but pretty in a way that no airbrush could paint. There's no pale indie here, just a tan from the flames of LA and its mountains of burning fashion mags. We get a barely-whispered "hello”, the fan-boys swoon and 'the show' commences.

This afternoon is a stripped-down affair, so that we can truly hear Chan's voice in all its soulful, playful, detailed-like-a-hazelnut-shell-that's-been-soaked-in-amaretto wonder. The set includes a couple of beautiful covers 'House of the Rising Sun' and a truck-stopping rendition of the Everly Brothers' 'All I Have To Do is Dream', plus 'Names' from previous album 'You Are Free'. The rest is like prematurely unwrapping presents hidden in the airing cupboard, it's the treat of the new album 'The Greatest' (due January 2006).

There's either a real step up lyrically to the new material, or I'm listening harder than I normally would; mixed with that virginal joy of a first listen. Maybe it's because my weekend's reading material is William Burroughs' wonderful re-pressing of 'The Cat Inside' setting an apt context. Then maybe it's because my journey here on a Sunday has been alongside gurning Christians, looking so righteous and hopeful about their fairytale heavens. Maybe I believe (too much) in people who make sense of my world. With their ideas of bathing in the moon. Their honesty. Their living for moments, driven by death to create something special to leave behind. Maybe I shouldn't feel like I'm not alone hearing a fragile human singing "I want to explode far away from here." ('Hate'). The songs are the darker of coffees, yeah, but now it's a charmed bleakness, the doo-doo's and ee-eee's, with witch-like magic and romance (whether or not she's found it). These new songs have something bigger, with broader arrangements which are more considered and complete. There are songs about living in a bottle, describing it with a lost joy most rock stars will never muster. There are appropriations of modern relationships, and the glee that a boys remembered to call on the telephone ('Love & Communication').

The show - however powerful - is riddled with nervous forgetfulness and breakdowns half way through songs. Then there's the hushed apologizing, which is in a way sweet, but mildly worrying in that there's a blurring; when does the act end and fade into a reality? If it is there to give us a real desire to just shout something positive or run up and hug her, it's working; we are of course, all too shy. Her myth and majesty makes her seem like a bunsen-burner safety flame that you can run through your hand. Her almost ghost-like flickerings, put a tragic fear in the room whilst reminding us "I am your answer, I am living proof."

Maybe it is an act, maybe it isn't. Maybe she suffers from exposure_ and it really is this hard to live out a normal day before baring your soul to an audience - however receptive they may be. Regardless, the resulting performance is a muse unto those she touches, giving a hope and joy, or at the very least a my-life-ain't-this-bad looking glass for middle-class kids. The fact it all comes wrapped up in her timeless and perfect vocal delivery is what makes all of this special. It's the voice which will live on nevertheless. Based on tonight's show, she could/will become more than Tom Waits, Patti Smith or any of the true greats. When she speaks she's child-like, the only other I've seen so close to these shyly delicate mannerisms was cult-author JT Leroy.

Thoughts stop. The show ends. Cat walks up the middle aisle to rapturous applause, speaking a scattered mumble of "sorry.. thank you... sorry, sorry... thank you... sorry...".

And then there's a perfect, shared silence...

The initial anticipation of the room has barely relented since the will she/won't she, tanned indie-pin-up, wandered silently onto the stage in a cardigan an hour or so earlier. There's a new confusion in the air. People have lost themselves in this bewildering journey through emotions. Some have forgotten how to breathe.

Then there's a slow-building, pure, elated, giggling from the amassed and we slowly shuffle towards the Irish rain.


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