by Cormack O'Connor in New Music on Thursday 7 March 2013

Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) casually strolled onto stage, cigarette in one hand and cup of tea in the other. The rain had been pouring down all day, and after a transport hold up on the highway, she was very, very late. It didn’t matter, though. Grabbing the microphone with a cheeky grin, Marshall shouted ‘What’s up mother fuckers?’, handed her cigarette off to Gregg Foreman (the only male member of her new backing band) and launched into the enthralling, mellow sound of The Greatest.

From there I was captivated. There’s just something about this woman, and standing a good 30 centimeters from her for nearly two hours is a near indescribable experience.

When the band moved into the danceable beats of Cherokee, the crowd got grooving with Marshall as she bopped around the stage. The set focused heavily on material from the Atlanta born songstress’ 2012 LP Sun, playing 10 of the 11 songs. It was nice to see some old material popping up here and there and it was even more delightful to see Marshall swing her hands to the snare taps of a renewed version of her 1996 tune, King Rides By.

One of the most mesmerizing pieces of the set was a cover of Roberta Flack’s Spanish sung Angelitos Negros. A single light blared from behind Marshall as smoke billowed over the stage and her smoky vocals rang out hauntingly through the venue. Flickering at times, the light was hypnotizing as the drums swelled in the background.

Marshall struggled a lot with health issues last year and she didn’t seem to be one hundred percent during her performance – coughing heavily between songs and citing exhaustion towards the end of the set. The tea must have been helping, though, as her voice sounded perfect and her level of energy was insane for somebody who has been so sick.

Pretending to shoot her band with a bouquet of white roses during the closing number, Ruin, it was clear that Chan Marshall had truly returned. Cat Power is back in her finest form after many years of struggles. Shaking hands with the front row, Power chucked the flowers into the crowd and left to a rousing applause. I felt special staring at the black stage; white rose and set list in my freshly shaken hand. I had just experienced something that few will experience again; an intimate and powerful encounter with a legend at the absolute peak of her career.