REVIEW: Cat Power Sings Dylan @ Lincoln Theatre, 2/20

By Kamali Joseph

It’s a chilly Tuesday night on U St., but you would never be able to tell. The street is alive – people admiring the colorful murals, waiting for a hot dog at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, or spending a night with Cat Power at the historic Lincoln Theater. 

The indie-rock darling sported a pixie cut, a black pantsuit, and a pair of Louboutins for her performance of Bob Dylan’s infamous 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert. Dylan performed the first half of the set acoustic, and the second electric. Power performed it the same way, fifty years later. The stage lights cast a warm glow onto the stage, which held a full band set-up complete with a Louis Vuitton piano. Despite all the instruments on stage, it was only her, her guitarist, and the pianist with a harmonica attached to him. 

The set opened with “She Belongs to Me,” a song about a woman who is very sure of herself and her art – much like Cat Power. She snapped her fingers and strummed an air guitar while singing, grounding herself during this percussionless portion. After the song ended, she told the audience to take advantage of the few empty seats in the front. There was hesitation at first, then a few fans scurried to the good seats. 

She continued the set with “Fourth Time Around” and “Visions of Johanna.” Her smoky voice rang clear as a bell, slightly mimicking Bob Dylan’s nasally inflection, but adding a sensual depth. However, when she addressed the audience, she spoke in a raspy whisper explaining that she had come down with a sickness – making her vocal ability all the more impressive. She sipped on tea from a mug she kept beside her and kept going. 

You could hear a pin drop during “Desolation Row.” A twelve-minute southwestern style folk song about the disillusionment and alienation that comes with existing in our society, told through metaphors pertaining to literary and historical figures. Power sang the opening line “They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown / The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town,” and a hush fell over the crowd. Power’s rendition was haunting and especially poignant since it could have been a song about today. 

“Washington D.C.” she said, shaking her head. “Crazy ass world.” 

The set continued with classics like “Just Like A Woman” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” She appeared to grow a little fidgety as the set went on, and you could feel the audience holding their breaths, waiting for the set to become electric. 

When the rest of the band got on stage, the theater began to buzz. Her band was diverse in age, but similar in energy and spirit. Power knows the blues. She knows rock and roll. She was by no means bouncing around the stage, but you could see how the songs took over her body.

Power is known for her covers and the way she can make you hear a classic song as if you are hearing it for the first time. “Like a Rolling Stone” was no different. Unlike Dylan’s performance, no one in the crowd accused her of being Judas. In fact, people were literally jumping from their seats. It was beautiful to witness the audience, which was mostly seniors, be able to rediscover the songs that mean a lot to them, through someone who they mean a lot to as well. Bob Dylan will be remembered as an artist with a voice and something to say, and so will Cat Power. 

“Keep your chin up,” she said before exiting the stage. “Fight the power.” 

3 responses

  1. Katie Clark Avatar
    Katie Clark

    Amazing!!! Well written!! Your ability to write in such descriptive details, allows me, the reader, to truly experience the moment! I love music and I truly felt the power of this piece!

  2. Excellent review I felt I was there. Written by someone who knows music. Bravo to Cat and Kamali.

  3. Willot Joseph Avatar
    Willot Joseph

    Go kama! Go Kama! Wow!!!!This is one of kind report on a artist’s performance. After reading this report, I feel as if I watch it live or were physically there at the performance.

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