Friday, Feb. 13, at downtown Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre was a fittingly haunting night, thanks to the entrancing power and surrealist beauty of Chan Marshall’s truly unique voice. The mystique and magic of the artist also known as Cat Power lay in her smoky, resounding vocals that sound like they’re coming somewhere deep from the bottom of her core.
The reverberating Dirty Delta Blues Band, as well as Marshall’s fluid, sinuous, undulating movements, created an overall chilling sensation that swept through the theater; it felt kind of like witnessing some sort of psychologically spellbound experience.
Nothing could have felt more effective, and her textured voice lends topical subjects (love, heartbreak) a simultaneous relatable accessibility and tragic, desperate abjection.
Her rich fusion of soul, blues and alternative-country fashions the highly stylized aesthetic that is distinct and unique to Cat Power. What was so dynamic and compelling about her live performance was her animated intensity, her ability to bring the music to life and unremittingly elevate the audience to transcendent highs and lows.
It was as though she were imploring the audience to feel and experience every word, injecting life into the lines and utterly embodying the music.
Marshall sang staple hits from her impressively lengthy musical career, including “American Flag,” “Silver Stallion,” “Nude as the News,” “Good Woman” and a bevy of other classics that elicited a hypnotic effect that left the audience euphoric, in a ghostly, otherworldly state.
She’s a natural, exuding an effortlessness, an easy synthesis of sincerity and labor that emanated from her every pore.
She got the audience to actually understand and experience the meaning, rhythm, and color of soul, and evoked an anachronistic, nostalgic jazz-like style, channeling the likes of great icons from past generations.
Interestingly enough, Cat Power’s performance is often critiqued for being uncommunicative and closed-off from her audience.
After having seen her at this concert, those assertions couldn’t seem more off base. Granted, she’s not particularly talkative or jocular during the performance, but her awkwardness and unusual physical traits were absolutely mesmerizing, and her determination and effort were undeniable. She opened up and relaxed once she seemed to get into a comfortable zone.
“I’m sorry, I wish I had been better tonight,” and she proceeded to give audience members individual flowers after her performance, “because who doesn’t like having flowers thrown at them?”
It’s fair to say that the general consensus was that she was charming, interesting and beautiful, and that she brought art to life and made life into an art form.