There are many ways to celebrate getting old. There is crying into your pillow, enjoying some whiskey or my favourite- seeing a band/singer you love. An early (day before) birthday present to me was a ticket to see Cat Power last night at one of London’s most gorgeous venues. Union Chapel is down the road from me, which is pretty cool. It is a venue that could make the most horrendous singers sound amazing. But for the likes of Cat Power, it just shows how brilliant they are.
Previous to this show Chan had canceled a few due to being sick, however if I could sing the way she did last night when I’m sick then I’d be bloody happy. She means to me what the likes of Patti, Bobby, Morrissey and Lou mean to me. She’s someone who can put across what I think/feel better than I can. She’s got a beautifully brutal way with words. Her honesty is gorgeous and endearing. How someone couldn’t be a fan of hers, I have no idea.
Her songs for the most part flowed right into each other. She went way back with some of her songs, and for me hearing Great Expectations (second record, Myra Lee) was perfect. I saw her in 2008 and it was around the time Jukebox was released. Her set consisted of songs from that record and The Greatest. To hear some older songs last night was amazing. She started her set on guitar. Just Chan and a guitar. She seemed to be quite nervous and unsure, but as she made her way to the piano, everything fell into place. She came alive and her beautiful sense of humour came out. If Chan ever packs in music, I sincerely hope she goes into comedy as her sense of humour is wonderful. Her laugh is infectious. When she starts, you go with her. She’s delicate when she speaks, and when she sings you pick up on the hope and strength in her voice that comes from a dark place. She got through some bad shit, and she’s still around. I know people look up to others far too easily, but hand on heart- she’s one of my idols.
Although it is obvious in her lyrics she’s a fantastic storyteller, it becomes much clearer when she tells stories to the audience ranging from her cracking her head open to creating a single-mum house cleaning device to Instagram blocking her. Her humour always shines through, and she’s someone you really couldn’t tire from listening to. She just leaves you in awe. She really has that Patti Smith quality about her. It is so rare to find, but Chan truly has it.
At the end of the show, she is greeted with a message from an iPad that reads END. Maybe from an iPad, or maybe from some god telling us all to get out. She played 2 seconds of 3 songs including my beloved Metal Heart. She finds humour in everything, and you know, from all the struggles she has had it was bloody wonderful to see her on that stage smiling and joking. At the piano, she said something along the lines of “I’m just happy to be having fun for one minute.” Moments like this make the setlist seem like a minor thing. She fell in love with piano at Union Chapel, and although she seemed mad at herself for forgetting some notes/songs, she played it beautifully.
If you’ve read about Chan’s shows you’ll see how people said she can be hit or miss. She apologised a lot last night for getting things wrong, but I didn’t care. I don’t think anyone in the room did. All that mattered was that Chan felt well enough to play for just over 2 hours last night. It felt like a real private moment, and one anyone who was there will remember for a long time. For me, I’ll remember the stories she told and not the songs she played. Her presence on stage is hypnotic. She’s a woman who stands for everything the world lacks and needs- peace, love, compassion and freedom. She has the bravery to speak up and to be honest. Her songs are vulnerable which is what makes her so easy to fall in love with. Seeing her in such an open place (I guess you could say vulnerable) last night made the songs carry even more weight. I held back some tears as she softly played I Don’t Blame You.
I’ve probably missed out a bunch of things, but I can safely say this is one of the greatest (sorry…) shows I’ve ever been to. Her music gives you hope and her words are a comfort blanket. The Greatest made me teary eyed and hearing Hate so clearly was something I”ll always treasure. She could sing the phonebook with just a guitar and it would make me cry. She’s powerful and I really don’t think she understands just how inspirational she truly is. Last night’s show is one I’ll remember for a long time, but then again, you don’t really forget seeing your heroes. I think hearing seeing Maybe Not was the moment I let some tears fall. That song along with Metal Heart are my favourites by Chan. I love how open they sound and how safe they make you feel. The lyrics to Maybe Not are so pure and gorgeous, I wish I could write something as brave as that.
Also, one last thing- her friend and guitarist, Nico Turner opened for her. Listen to her music. She’s on the same level as Chan. Her cover of Something In The Way by Nirvana is brilliant.