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CATPOWER w/ Appaloosa

  Manchester Academy  
  Manchester, England  
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

Appaloosa were a French duo consisting of a young curly haired lad on keyboards and a woman with rather listless hair who was dressed rather incongruously in a leather jacket over a green sequinned dress with a split all the way up the side. There was something slightly Nico-esque about this attempted juxtaposition of rock and roll and glamour, albeit the Nico she resembled was a somewhat rough looking one who lived on a council estate. Make that latter-day Nico then! Some of the vocals were slightly atonal and, to be frank, she was a rubbish dancer - even after she took her high heels off a few numbers in. This led me to wondering if her handbag was on the floor behind the speaker and she was going to dance around it, but, no, she just jumped up and down two or three times periodically, as if preparing for a mid-distance race.

From these comments you will no doubt form the opinion that I thought Appaloosa were, well, a bit shit but they weren’t. Not at first anyway. The first number featured the female half singing slightly out of time against some male voice courtesy of a backing tape, and there was something delightfully slightly off-kilter about it. The next few numbers had their moments too, and I really liked one that had a catchy tune over some 80s beats, but at some point about midway through their set they lost me, and the keyboard player turning to guitar didn’t improve matters. It didn’t help that he was squatting uncomfortably on the floor to play it. For god’s sake, lad, buy a strap! That said, the last number was OK, and they did make me want to hear what they sounded like on record.

As for Catpower…well there’s something special about Chan Marshall, isn’t there? I’ve only got a passing knowledge of her work, and to be honest I recognised very few numbers tonight, so you will have to excuse me not listing what she played, but she came on with her Dirty Delta Blues band and played some slow, laidback opening number that, with Marshall’s vocals over the top, was genuinely spine-tingling. Although much of it operated outside my usual taste – it being pretty much country rock at times – Marshall’s voice has such a fabulous warmth to it that it was always worth hearing. A quick word, too about the musicianship shown by a bassist with Elvis-proportioned sidies, a bearded denim clad guitarist, an old pot-bellied bloke on drums and a (relatively) young fella with a Paul Weller haircut on keyboards (which included the normally dreaded electric piano!) as it always served the material rather than consisting of any showy flourishes. Sure the guitarist played the odd "lick", but we were about an hour or so in before he played a proper solo, and even that was an exercise in restraint. A special mention for the drummer, too. His lazy beats were ideal for the material. You knew he had loads more in the tank, but that he knew it wasn’t needed.

At close to two hours, it was possibly a bit on the long side, but that probably sounds churlish on my behalf as we were in the presence of a genuinely great voice. Even then though, Marshall was hardly in a rush to get off-stage. The band had long since gone and there she was loving the adulation as she picked out selections from a bouquet of flowers and threw them and her band members' set-lists to selected members of the audience. As my mate Mike said, it was good to see her looking so happy after her various problems.

Well worth catching…

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