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Two days later, I drove to Cambridge on a whim to hear her lecture for a small group of students at Harvard. She played one song—one of her best, “Maybe Not,” on keyboard, about four feet between her larynx and my eardrum—and I unexpectedly, vehemently wept; a peculiar thrumming in my bloodstream struck me as ecstasy. She saw me crying and, still singing and playing the keys, said, "You’re gonna make me cry," and then she did cry, for the duration of one note, before regaining her composure.
Now, listening to these bootlegs—recordings of the entire concert in Nashville (November 6), Philadelphia (November 16), and Cleveland (November 20)—it’s evident that she evolved during these past two months; her singing, as well as her banter, sounds more confident, more controlled, while she maintains the utmost vulnerability required for her to undergo the emotional intensity of each song. Though these performances are not without the quirks that have notoriously characterized her stage-presence (false starts, sudden stops, muttering, asking "Are you mad at me?"), the quirks construct a bridge over the former barrier between Chan and her audience. I hear her taking risks, trusting her capability to transcend error, stepping to the very edge to look at the eyes of the listeners.
On December 11, Chan and Nico resume the tour: Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Pensacola, and then throughout Australia. If I could afford to, I’d fly South and abroad to see each show, to take every possible four-hour hit of that opiate voice. I guess I’m not such a bad addict after all. Anyhow, notwithstanding its swiftness, the first set in Brooklyn was no less substantial than any other. Her singing intoxicated me, entranced me.
And Chan traveled to that trance state, too: "I was trying to play the guitar with my voice," she said after fumbling, abruptly stopping a song and then starting a new one.
"The Greatest" (late show) by Cat Power at Brooklyn Masonic Temple:
Photos and Video by Gretchen Robinette