Cat Power sold out an all-ages show at Seattle’s Showbox on November 17, 2018. The set included seven songs from the October 2018 release, Wanderer, a few older tunes, and covers by Nico, Lana Del Rey, Dead Man’s Bones, Dirty Three, and The Boys Next Door.
Chan Marshall emerged from backstage clad in black velvet and carrying a lit stick of incense. She made her way through dim purple backlighting and fog toward two microphones at center stage. Her backing trio had already begun the introduction to “He Turns Down,” but Marshall first acknowledged the cheering audience before starting to sing, appearing grateful but embarrassed by the attention, as if she had just entered a surprise party. She then accepted a bouquet from a front-row fan and held it to her chest through several songs.
The arrangements were characteristically spare with distinct instrumental voices—heavy mallets on open drums, simple comping on piano, and soft arpeggios on guitar and bass. Marshall’s voice was rich and mournful, and the delay on her second mic heightened the feeling of distance. Tunes like “In Your Face” hearkened back to her earlier work, but overall her recent songs were slightly less devastating. Over a quarter-century into her career, she continues to deliver transcendent vocals and wield quiet emotional power.
Marshall is known for her unusual yet endearing stage presence. At this show, her melancholy lyrics and tone were incongruent with a sometimes-beaming smile. She danced mostly with her hands, but occasionally accentuated a lyric by kicking up her boots. After each tune she clapped with the audience, and then shuffled through a book of charts on her music stand. A cup of tea was delivered to her onstage.
Her quirky style did not deter the audience, who absolutely adored Marshall and her shy demeanor. When she hesitated at the mic or clung to the shadows, they shouted encouragements and praise. In a quiet moment, a fan yelled, “I love you, Chan!” and Marshall mouthed quietly, “I love you more.”
Cat Power closed the set with “The Moon,” performed as a duet with her male guitarist. Marshall left the audience with a personal message: “I wouldn’t be alive if people didn’t accept me on my path. Please take care of yourselves.”
New York singer–songwriter trio Arsun opened the evening. Nineteen-year-old bandleader Arsun Sorrenti entered the stage with two other teenage men in denim and sneakers, and remarked that they had never played an audience this large before. Sorrenti’s singing voice was surprisingly deep and complex for his age. Arsun played a four-song set of mostly acoustic tunes, which included “Choking on the Midday Sun” and their single “White Light.” They closed with the Velvet Underground cover “New Age,” and Sorrenti admitted afterward, “I’m glad we pulled that off. It’s a hard one for us.” Sorrenti thanked Marshall for the tour spot, and for her support since he first sent her a demo at age 15.