Chan Marshall, the enchanting enigma otherwise known as Cat Power, bravely strides onto the stage of the Kentish Town Forum, to play her London comeback gig, following a well publicized breakdown last year.
It is immediately obvious that the life-saving short spell spent on a Miami psychiatric ward has transformed the woman once famous for a crippling shyness and an ongoing battle with her demons.
Firstly, she's hardly recognizable. Her hair is pulled back from her face in a neat ponytail; the trademark fringe that she could hide behind gone. And underneath is a healthy, beautiful woman, sporting, shock horror, a big beaming smile. It suits her. Later she even fondly mocks the crowd -"ello Landon" – in a comedy Dick Van Dyke cockney accent.
To complete the marking of this new era, she has an impressive backing band in tow. Affectionately nicknamed, Dirty Delta Blues, it comprises of Dirty Three's Jim White, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Judah Bauer and the Delta 72's Gregg Foreman.
The sound they make together is a tight, bluesy rock 'n' roll. Marshall's stunning, honey voice cuts the grade for this maturation, as well it did the stripped down, folky style she first made her name for. 'Greatest' feels warmer and more comforting than ever. Their version of 'New York, New York', which will feature on her second record of covers, is a revelation.
Chan was also once renowned for being her own toughest critic, apologizing between songs for what she believed to be an inadequate performance, and in extreme cases abandoning shows. Tonight, there are still definite signs of the innate eccentricity that makes her Chan, but she bounds between her band with an unrecognizable energy. It is
slightly self-conscious, but then it's going to take some time not to feel naked up on stage stone cold sober, as opposed to the drunken haze she had become accustomed to.
As the set reaches a climatic end, with an uplifting reinvention of the Stones' Satisfaction, the encore craving applause says it all. We are extremely glad that this underground icon of our generation has made it back from the brink, and we look forward to hearing the new sunnier side of the world of Cat Power.
Check out a clip of her performance here.