Wild Mercury Sound

Cat Power featuring Chanel Marshall

John Mulvey

It's not often, I must admit, that I have a reason to visit Chanel's website. But there's a great video on there at the moment that amounts to an unveiling of Cat Power's new live line-up. It's quite a shock.

I'm something of a veteran of Chan Marshall's eccentric live shows. I remember the first time she played in London, when she prepared for going onstage by crawling into the venue's DJ booth and curling up under the decks for 45 minutes. I remember shows where she could barely finish a song, and another where her stagefright became so profound, she ordered the stage lights to be switched off and the house lights to be switched on.

Still, though, like so many others, I've kept going back for more. I've been prepared to put up with 90 minutes of stumbling, giggling, often excruciating behaviour because there's always a few moments when it all falls together, and those frail and gorgeous songs emerge intact. In those rare moments, Marshall has always been an authentically great performer. But notwithstanding her improved recent showings with the Memphis Rhythm Band, I'd still never gamble on her playing to order.

The Chanel show proves otherwise. While the models work the floor, Marshall and her new band are behind the crowd, providing a sleek and bluesy soundtrack. It takes quite some discipline to play to order like this. But away from the spotlight, Marshall seems liberated and imperious. Plenty of people have mythologised her onstage breakdowns as somehow validating the 'realness' of her art. This show, though, illustrates that she doesn't have to be a wreck to be charismatic.

The new band are called The Dirty Delta Blues: a rotten name predicated on the impressive CVs of core members Jim White (drums, The Dirty Three), Greg Foreman (organ, The Delta 72) and Judah Bauer (guitar, Blues Explosion). They take Marshall's rolling, open-ended approach to song and give it new clout, so that versions of Moby Grape's ace "Naked If I Want To", "Satisfaction" and "Tracks Of My Tears" - propelled by Foreman's Booker T-ish Hammond - sound like they could go on forever. Or at least until the models stop moving.

Oh, the address. Go to here, then click on SPRING-SUMMER 2007 HAUTE COUTURE. Next, click on VIDEOS in the bottom right-hand corner, then click on the video of the SHOW. There's a bit more in the Karl Lagerfeld interview, after Lagerfeld (a surprisingly tasteful man, though you wouldn't know from what he's wearing) raves about Cat Power for a bit. There's a very good mix CD he put out the other month, where he reveals himself to be Black Mountain's unlikeliest fan. Weird, but great.


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