Cat Power in concert (Paradiso, Amsterdam)

Rise, fall and rise again

American singer-songwriter Charlyn Marie Marshall (born January 21, 1972), better known by her stage name Cat Power, was originally discovered in 1994 by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. After a hiatus around the turn of the millennium, she reemerged with her soul-inspired, award-winning album The Greatest (2006), which was recorded with a rhythm band comprised of Memphis studio musicians.

Her latest album Sun (2012) was the first one since The Greatest to feature solely original material. It received mostly positive reviews and was in many ways a venture of cathartic nature for Cat Power, who had been facing alcohol-related problems and mental health issues in the past.

Live at Club Paradiso, Amsterdam

Before going to watch Cat Power at Paradiso earlier this week, I knew that her live performances had a reputation for being quite unpredictable (she had abruptly cut short some of her shows in the past due to drinking problems or stage fright). Thankfully, none of this took place this time around. Charlyn and her band went on to deliver a perfectly professional show, playing a total of approximately 90 minutes.

Still, a fragility in her voice and body language made it clear that this is someone who has been through rough times. And perhaps it’s precisely this hard-won maturity that has infused new meaning into her lyrics, while making her soothing voice sound even more attractive.

As was the case with one of the evening’s most captivating moments, when the lights went dim and the entire hall fell silent as she sang:

“Everything you have to go through
With a smile on your face
Everything we now know, with a smile on our face
I, I can never forget”

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