Live Review: Cat Power @ The Vogue Theatre – November 2nd 2012

The night started much like any other – there was some rain, some umbrella bumper wars, and some two-bite brownies to be had. I made my way to the Vogue, claimed a seat amongst strangers, and settled in for a concert I had little expectations for. The first ‘band’, or rather singer/guitarist, was named Entrance. He was a young lad dressed in a lovely vest sporting well coiffed hair. The room darkened and a set of pink lights shone down on center stage. A mournful tone rang out over the audience. And I thought to myself “ah, so it’s going to be one of THOSE evenings.” You know the kind where you leave feeling just as lost and gloomy as the singer sounds? Perhaps I was being a bit dramatic at the time, but I had a definite roll of the eyes moment, promptly followed by a resolution to give the evening the benefit of the doubt.

I would like to say that this Entrance fellow (we never did learn if that is his actual name or the name of the band) was not a bad musician; in fact he was quite good. He interacted pleasantly with the audience; pausing to tell us about the time a homeless woman in Vancouver stole his brain, and carried himself well. He demonstrated a nice range, including flawless transitions into his falsetto range, and came across as a unique voice to be heard. That being said, his songs, such as Prayer of the Dead, lacked variance in their terminally slow and melancholy journey from beginning to end. I did pause to acknowledge that the young lady beside me seemed completely entranced by this young man, dutifully recording each and every song and shooting spiteful darts at the row of ladies behind us who were taking the opportunity to catch up on the latest gossip.

One song did stand out from me, which was Green Rocky Road – or at least that’s what I’m calling it as he did not announce song names and I haven’t been able to successfully Google him. The song was an acoustic offering, which demonstrated the singer’s ability to hold the stage sans instrument and awarded him sporadic hollers of admiration. This song allowed me to embrace the musician behind the devastated singer act, leading me to believe that if he drops a touch of the sad attitude, picks up the tempo once in a while, and adds some more of those acoustic pieces, he could have some real potential.

On to the main act, however – Ms. Cat Power. The woman of the hour herself was just under an hour late, but when she did arrive the audience erupted, showering her with adoration and flowers. Donning a leather jacket and all black attire along with a relaxed blonde Mohawk, her initial appearance was shockingly different from what I’d expected. What’s more, I was a bit put off by her lack of connection to her clearly loving fans. She did tell them she loved them – but where was the passion behind the message? Perhaps she was saving it up, for her first song was truly epic. I couldn’t understand a word she said but it didn’t really faze me; all eyes turned on Power and a hush fell over the Vogue. It was as if each of us were afraid to lost even a moment of her presence.

The song did end however, as did the spell (for me at least). While she was able to captivate my attention again, it was in peaks and valleys unlike those first few moments. My biggest critique would be that her unique and lovely voice was lost at times in the background music from her band. I understand that past albums have had a more solo vibe, with this latest, Sun, taking on a louder and edgier sound. I would have preferred more balance between the instrumental and vocal elements, as I found myself longing for a simple song from this band that would highlight their strengths.

Power did offer up a couple of slower songs accompanied by the piano. This was one of the highlights of her performance for me, as it emphasized her passionate and beautiful solo talent. She followed these up with her hit, Ruin, a division of her bouquet between band members and audience alike, and (surprisingly) an encore-less finish. She did linger on stage, soaking in the love in her own humble way.

As an outsider to the Cat Power fan club, I could tell that this young lady is well loved by her fans. She came across as having an intriguing on stage person – erratic and unreadable, yet endearing all at once. While I don’t really feel like I learned anything about her as a person, I did find the concert to be interesting. I had read some fairly scathing reviews of Power’s recent concerts, and while I can see why these writer’s chose to focus on her inability to make a personal connection to the audience, I would like to acknowledge her large stage presence in general as well as her wonderful talent as a musician.

The combination of Entrance’s melancholy tunes and Power’s mournful vocals did leave me feeling a bit lonely by the end of the evening, however now that I’ve sat down to write about it I can appreciate it for what it was. Both of these musicians are talented, and while I may not have been in the right mood for the tone of the evening, others certainly were. I asked my neighbouring audience members how they felt by the end, and they all say she rocked it. So there you have it – my biased opinion about an evening I enjoyed yet was happy to leave behind.

Photos © Pavel Boiko

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