The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Cat Power: A Haunting Tribute (Mission Creek 2023)

Chan Marshall, otherwise known as Cat Power, performed on April 6 at Hancher Auditorium for the Mission Creek Festival. She stood in front of an almost-packed auditorium of fans, journalists and photographers. The auditorium was silent as the audience watched her sip some tea. She took a breath. She began. 

To describe her overall performance in one word, it would be “haunting.” Her voice echoed and switched from booming to delicate throughout her performance, sounding like a mixture of Adele and Sia. Her powerful voice resembled Adele’s while her planned voice cracks and tone switches were reminiscent of Sia. It was an unexpected, yet interesting combination that first culminated in her performance of “Unhate”, a rendition of her 2006 song “Hate”. She switched the lyrics and, in turn, changed the meaning from feeling depressed to feeling hopeful. 

Throughout the concert, she danced around the stage and interacted with the accompanying pianist. She covered various artists and genres, including “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra and Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion”. She filled her voice with emotion as she sang, “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion.” 

Photo via Rolling Stone Magazine.

In addition to her “Covers” album, she also sang songs from her album “You Are Free.” Her original song “Good Woman” shifted from hopeful to saddened and back again, describing a relationship that can continue but shouldn’t. It was heartbreaking and moving. 

All of her covers sounded sadder than the originals, which could have been intentional. Her original songs were on the darker side as well, conveying a sense of heartache that seemed to resonate with the audience. Listeners stayed silent and listened to her messages, only occasionally clapping or cheering during a song. 

She showed vulnerability during the concert, stopping at times to sip her tea, check her music sheets, or just breathe. A couple times, she told the pianist to keep playing while she prepared herself, breathing and moving her hands before starting her song. She did that before singing “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, a country hit by Kitty Wells that was a groundbreaker of its time, describing the pain of being cheated on. 

Many of Cat Power’s songs seemed to be associated with struggling or broken relationships, including the one mentioned above, along with “Bad Religion” (alluding to how religion could be a metaphor for someone who is toxic) and “White Mustang” (about a bad competitiveness between partners). 

Overall, her concert was moving and conveyed a message of both sorrow and hope. Her songs spanned genres and artists, with her morphing them all into jazzy or ballad-like renditions. She was the perfect closing performer for the first night of Mission Creek.