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Cat Power filled the Melbourne Zoo air with a dreamlike transcendence

It was a moving performance from the acclaimed singer-songwriter.

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Julien Bourgeois

Chan Marshall’s love affair with Melbourne began when the then 25-year-old Atlanta native travelled here to record Moon Pix in 1997. It’s this special connection to the city that makes her performance feel all the more significant, and when Marshall tells the crowd that she loves us, it isn’t merely an affectation.

Marshall has a legend that precedes her. It’s this mythos that has fuelled our fascination with her for over two decades and left many with a pronounced attachment to her music. So strong is Marshall’s impact that opening support Julia Jacklin reveals the first song she learnt on guitar was 'Sea of Love'. It’s a moment that makes you realise just how significant Marshall is within music, particularly so in the development of artists like Jacklin.

Taking to the stage solo, Jacklin performs songs from her acclaimed debut record Don’t Let The Kids Win and forthcoming release Crushing. It’s during the triumphant 'Head Alone' that Jacklin is at her most assertive, the song carrying a confidence that is entirely captivating.

Rather than making a grand arrival, Marshall, aka Cat Power, walks on stage almost inconspicuously, cup of tea in hand. While her demeanour is markedly casual this doesn’t detract from her formidable presence which fills the 3,000-capacity Melbourne Zoo amphitheatre.

Fittingly, her set starts with a track from Moon Pix as Marshall and her band deliver a stirring version of 'He Turns Down'. Marshall’s distinctive croon permeates the crisp evening air in a way that immediately brings about goosebumps ­– her voice is at once both commanding and fragile and it’s this juxtaposition that has the audience completely spellbound.

 
 
 
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A post shared by CAT POWER (@catpowerofficial) on Feb 9, 2019 at 2:57pm PST

Throughout the set we’re treated to older tracks such as 'I Don’t Blame You'and 'Cross Bones Style', two standout moments from her discography that are as bewitching as ever. Songs from her latest album Wanderer are a welcome addition too, with both 'In Your Face'and 'Woman'possessing a remarkable energy.

As is tradition at a Cat Power show Marshall performs a number of covers, with Nick Cave’s 'Into My Arms', Nico’s 'These Days' and The Boys Next Door's 'Shivers'executed with the right balance of respect and raw emotion. It’s during the latter that the sky fills with bats flying overhead, the moment not lost on Marshall who comments on the scene with glee.

The most striking songs of the evening are those that are stripped back to just vocals and guitar. The heartbreaking lyrics of 'Good Woman' are accentuated within this arrangement and set closer 'The Moon'becomes tinged with a melancholy so profound it’s hard not to become overcome with emotion. This rendition serves to cap the evening off so perfectly that an encore simply isn’t needed.

Marshall’s career longevity comes with the lesson that there is immense value in sharing with others your most vulnerable and authentic self. There are plenty of reasons why Marshall’s music will be celebrated for many years to come, but this ultimately feels like the most important one.

Highlight: The bats flying over the zoo during 'Shivers'

Lowlight: Toilet lines.

Crowd Favourite: Seeing the number of children in the crowd being exposed to Cat Power’s greatness.