By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Cult indie singer-songwriter Cat Power returns to Rio this weekend with a show at Lapa’s Circo Voador venue on Friday, May 21st. The Brazil leg of the current tour, which included a performance at São Paulo’s Virada Cultural festival last weekend, follows her tour of the country last year when she played the much larger HSBC arena in Barra da Tijuca.
An ever intriguing artist on the indie fringe, Cat Power´s gently haunting voice and sublime pared down sound have earned her a dedicated following that is steadily spreading internationally, particularly as her music evolves in the direction of fuller, lush sounding production.
The 38-year-old artist (born Chan Marshall) has said that her itinerant childhood moving between the US southern states of North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina prepared her for the touring life of the a musician.
After dropping out of high school she became involved in the Atlanta music scene performing under the name Cat Power. However her musical development really took place when she moved to New York, where she was introduced to the free-jazz and experimental music scenes that would influence her own unconventional approach and sound.
Performing in New York she caught the attention of Steve Shelley of grunge godfathers Sonic Youth who encouraged her to record and played on her first two albums Myra Lee (1995) an Dear Sir (1996), both recorded on the same day in 1994. They would also play on her first major label release, the critically acclaimed 1996 album What Would The Community Think?
After a brief break from the industry in 1997, Cat Power returned with another acclaimed album Moon Pix followed by The Covers Record in 2000, an album of covers of songs by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Nina Simone and Michael Hurley, and the 2003 album You Are Free which featured Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl.
2005’s album The Greatest, not a greatest hits album but an album of new songs produced with Al Green producer Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, was a major leap in both production values and songwriting. The sparse sound of her earlier recordings was replaced by cascading strings and horns and with her breathy vocals the tracks have an air of a roughed-up Dusty Springfield. Another covers album, Jukebox, followed in 2008.
Aside from the 1997 hiatus and a breakdown following the release of The Greatest, she has toured extensively throughout her career. Her development and experimentation as a live musician is considerable. Her scatty past performances where song structure and set lists were abandoned in a blur of starts and stops have been variously praised (by fans) and slammed (by critics), but that performance style has become notably more professional since she stopped drinking in 2006.
Indeed it was a more enthusiastic and comfortable stage persona that Cat Power displayed during last year’s Brazil tour. Sweetly interacting with the audience and giving out flowers, sadly the large venues suited neither the singer nor her sound, but Circo Voador represents a venue more befitting the quirky nature of the artist.
Power looks sure to deliver a new evolution of her beautiful, often minimalist songs, full of ruminations on life, delivered in her distinctive hollow voice that is at once fragile and gutsy. Known to view her music as something that lives and grows with her, her Rio gig will be a unique intimate interpretation from a wonderfully left of centre artist with an approach to music that spikes against the mainstream.
Tickets available from R$60 plus booking fee from ingressos.com.br.