By Robert Zuehlke, Photos By Stephanie Briejo from Bonnaroo 2013
Chan Marshall is notorious for her erratic solo sets but at Sixth & I on a frigid November night she performed with such warmth and intimacy to make you quickly forget all that. Sixth & I is a special place and its intimate, cavernous, and inviting atmosphere lent well for Chan as she performed 26 songs with grace and minimal interruptions.
I have seen her twice, once solo during her “The Greatest” tour and the other with her back up band, the Dirty Delta Blues, during her “Jukebox” tour. She generally stays on point while performing with a full band but is known to be more unpredictable when it comes to her solo shows. While there were certainly traces of her anxiety here tonight as she started up certain songs, her apologies and tinkering are more endearing now, not distracting. Supported by the encouraging hollers and applause of support from the crowd throughout, she’s performing with a chip on her shoulder and is more self-assured than years past.
Her setlist dug deep into her catalogue, rotating between guitar and piano acts. Opening with her stunning take of “House of the Rising Sun,” she included a handful of unknown tracks and demos. Old favorites like “The Greatest” and “What Would the Community Think” were obvious crowd pleasers. The highlights of the evening were her performances of “Good Woman” and “Say.” The heartbreaking “Names” recalled troubled childhood friends and acquaintances and hearing “Colors and Kids” again was a true delight. The biggest disappointment of the evening was her repeated abandoning of songs midpoint, with multiple verses left many times. Chan’s guitar playing on these songs was subtle yet intricate. But what will always astound me and audiences alike is that voice. The spacious resonance of this synagogue accentuated it all the more and Chan knew how to utilize it best by singing afar from her microphone at times. Hearing her voice again in the live setting reminded me just how much heartbreak and intimacy her voice can convey.
My friend commented how troubling it is to witness her obvious nervousness and insecurities on stage. It is easy to feel that way, especially in the context of her recent financial and health problems. However, I choose to see that on-stage vulnerability and imperfectness not as a weakness but in an odd way, a sign of grace and humanity. Seeing these songs performed by a solitary Chan on-stage with one instrument and that voice was enough to melt my heart and fall in love with these songs all over again.
01. House of the Rising Sun
03. Love and Communication
04. Great Expectations
06. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Rolling Stones Cover)
07. Good Woman
08. Colors and Kids
09. In This Hole
10. The Greatest
13. Unknown Demo
14. Make Me Feel So Bad
15. Can I Get a Witness?
19. The Moon
22. Sea of Love
23. What Would the Community Think?
24. Troubled Waters (The Devil’s Daughter)
25. From Fur City
26. New Song in French