Austin City Limits Festival
September 18, 2004
Open your mouth up wide. Now, exhale deeply. Finally, make noise instead of just exhaling. This is how Cat Power(a.k.a. Chan Marshall) sang, except that she opened and closed her mouth. Her voice was moving, mournful, and cathartic at the Austin City Limits Festival Saturday afternoon.
The singer/songwriter is known for her stage fright, and stage managers surrounded her before the show. Their main task was to keep Marshall calm and on stage, it seemed. As the concert began, Cat Power displayed eccentric tics. Marshall wore large sunglasses in the shade and was meticulous in the execution of her songs. She started songs over if she wasn’t happy with them.
As the concert progressed, she loosened up, though. The sunglasses came off, she had the audience sing happy birthday to her soundman, and she even joked around with the audience a bit.
She was a one-woman band. Her soft delivery kept the audience silent and hanging on her every word or noise. Sometimes, it was hard to decipher her lyrics. Her voice was sculpted towards tales of heartbreak, abuse, and insecurity. She also spoke of inner peace and personal freedom.
Marshall kept her songs above water despite strumming one chord over and over again a number of times. Maybe it was the strength of her voice. Maybe she was trying to build up an emotional immediacy. Either way, the songs were enjoyable, but they were also emotionally draining. The sadness in her voice took energy out of me after a while. I was almost glad when the concert ended.
When Marshall switched to piano, her songs were just as effective. The concert was a success.