Correction: This review originally referred to the opening band, ESP, by the wrong name.
I was nervous walking up to the Palladium last night. What if Cat Power didn't show up? What if she had a meltdown? She's know for storming off stage if the sound isn't right.
Due to the rough year Cat Power has had, however, it's easy to forgive her for being unpredictable. If your boyfriend of five years broke up with you and married an English supermodel, you could be forgiven most things. Compound that with bankruptcy, the cancellation of her European tour, and a serious inflammatory illness, and getting out of bed suddenly looks heroic.
8:31 PM: The Palladium looks like the bottom of a pool at night, clad in dark blue light that ripples along the walls. The opening band, ESP were made up of two guys and a girl clad in white, looking like escapees from a baptism. A small amount of diehard fans are clustered around the stage swaying as the soft, ambient electronica washes over them. Whenever the synths do anything remotely interesting there is a swell of pleasure through the crowd.
9:19 PM: I would pay good money to find out how these guys got on the bill. The second opener The Goat takes the stage, and it's odd because you just don't see many hardcore bands opening for indie chanteuses these days. Shaven head, white long t-shirt, clad in tattoos, the lead singer looks like he would not be out of place in a police lineup. He is hell bound determined to get a mosh pit going tonight. With this refined crowd, he hasn't got a chance, but he does manage to charm some drunk girls clad in leopard print coats who begin chanting “Take off your pants! Take off your pants!”
9:48 PM: These guys are beginning to grow on me. The set is comprised of songs about picking up hookers on Sunset and La Brea “$20 she likes you, $40 she loooves you,” convincing people to go to your show, and drinking — the bassist shotguns an entire beer while the lead singer screams “Waasted!” All of their songs are direct and uncomplicated. They've inspired a man dressed in a cape and a kilt to begin spinning in the middle of the floor on the left side of the stage, clutching his cane victoriously. Eventually he runs out of gas and collapses into a puddle of cloth, lying spread eagle on the floor before dragging himself by the arms to the edge of the dance floor. If The Goat was clever, they would hire him to dance at all their shows.
10:28 PM: Bob Dylan's “Shelter from The Storm” begins playing and Cat Power's band takes the stage. Please let her show up.
10:34 PM: She's here! Thank God. Dressed in black, her newly shorn blond Mohawk gleaming in the stage lights, she grabs the microphone and leans her body over the crowd with her low smokey voice as cool as dark glass. Looking perfectly at ease she opens with “The Greatest.” Wandering up and down stage like a general she takes time to look everyone in the front row in the eye to make sure we're paying attention. She's got us.
11:03 PM: Is that a joint she's lighting on stage? No, Cat Power has just lit a stick of incense and stuck it under her arm, her fingers playing gently with the smoke as she sings “King Rides By.” This song she's recorded twice with two very different arrangements. One can't help but wonder how many versions of her songs she has in her head. When she goes on the road she plays all of her could-have-been versions of her hit songs. “I Don't Blame You” tonight is played as a blues ballad. Even though I've heard that tune hundreds of times, it's not until the chorus that it was recognizable. Only the new songs off her latest album, Sun, are kept intact.
11:44 PM: A young teenage girl in a pink confection of a dress has bounded on stage to sing “Nothin' But Time” with Cat Power. I suspect it's her ex-boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi's daughter, for whom she wrote the song.
11:53 PM: The sedated crowd is shaken awake by the thunderous “Peace and Love.” All of a sudden she has transformed into a rock star. Hips are swiveling, girls are hoisted by their dates, and electric guitars are out in full force. This is the biggest song of the night. “I thank y'all for being here. I fucking thank y'all for being here. I care about all of you,” she says, before launching into her single “Ruins.” Grabbing a bouquet of white roses, she distributed them amongst the crowd while continuing to sing. It's clear that despite whatever is going on internally, she's happy to be back on stage winning the hearts of a crowd.
Personal Bias: I'm willing to cut anyone slack if they're having a rough year.
The Crowd: Very excited that cooler weather has arrived in Los Angeles — tall boots, scarves, and jackets everywhere.
Random Notebook Dump: I have never understood the VIP balcony at the Palladium. Why on earth would you want to be so far from the dance floor?
Set list below
King Rides By
Always On My Own
Back In The Days
3, 6, 9
Nothin But Time
I Don't Blame You
Peace and Love