Chan Marshall has made it a staple of her career in bringing the songs of other musicians to life, often in completely unique interpretations that bear little resemblance to the originals. Known to the world as Cat Power, Marshall recently returned to the art of the cover song, but this time in a new and unique way.
Cat Power was at the Troubadour for a couple nights and then later the Palace Theatre last week to give her spin on Bob Dylan in homage to Dylan’s own classic live bootleg Live at the Royal Albert Hall, a two-disc 1998 album that captured Dylan at his peak in 1966.
Anyone who has seen Bob Dylan live in recent years has often come away a little underwhelmed at how few of his classic songs he plays, and of the ones he does, how few sound remotely similar to their studio counterparts. Whereas in the past Chan Marshall would give a wild interpretation of others’ songs, when it came to re-imagining Dylan’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall concert (which in fact took place at the Manchester Free Trade Hall and was just mislabeled), Marshall paid homage to Dylan by performing it in a very similar fashion to how he did more than a half century ago.
Cat Power just released her own live album performing Dylan’s Live at the Royal Albert Hall concert song-for-song, a concert she performed a year earlier.
Those that are familiar with Dylan’s rendition would know that this concert was groundbreaking in that Dylan brought along an electric guitar and a band with him when the crowd was expecting the topical folk songs he became known for. It marked a shift in the career of Dylan and that direction helped change music forever.
I’ve seen Cat Power perform at least a half-dozen times, and it can be a rollercoaster. Her performance is always memorable, but there can be moments where it feels like it might spiral a little bit. There are other times where it’s been one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Seeing her perform Dylan songs in an iconic venue like the Troubadour belonged more to the latter category, feeling like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these Dylan songs brought back to life in a time when the original artist is unable or unwilling to perform them.
There are many of us in my age group and below who grew up never getting to see Dylan at his best. I’ve enjoyed his music for my entire life and yet the few times I’ve got to see him, it didn’t measure up to what he was capable of decades ago. Of course, he set an incredibly high bar with numerous performances forever in the public consciousness over the years. Chan Marshall gave those of us in our thirties and younger a chance to see classic Dylan songs performed to their utmost capabilities.
The renditions were split into an acoustic set and an electric set. All-time favorite Dylan songs of mine “4th Time Around” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” got the stripped down treatment and had the crowd in an awed silence.
Chan Marshall turned to a full band for the latter electric half that carried a depth and teleported the crowd back to that infamous night in the ’60s that Dylan went electric. “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone” closed things out in incredible fashion.
There’s one thing for certain — whether it’s her own original music or a take on both classic and obscure favorites from others alike, Chan Marshall still has a lot to say — and convey. And every time it’s something worth taking the time to indulge.
The good news is that these shows weren’t your only opportunity to see Chan Marshall aka Cat Power Do Dylan. She will return to LA for a stop at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel on Thursday, March 7. Hope to see you there Jason Isbell.
Listen to Cat Power’s new live album ‘Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert below!