As legend has it, Georgia native Cat Power (nee Chan Marshall) was infamously slated to perform at MLK, Jr. Blvd.’s sorely-missed Café Metropole several years ago — right around the time the hipster eatery and bar unceremoniously shut down amid ugly rumors of a contentious landlord/tenant dispute.
In a way, the fact that the show itself disintegrated with little warning made perfect sense as Power’s live performances from that period were often sketchy at best (albeit haunting). It’s been said before that no one never really knows what to expect out of a live gig by this 35-year-old minimalist, indie-rock singer/songwriter, but of late, she’s been earning high marks for some semblance of (detached) professionalism.
Seemingly gone are the days when she’d abruptly stop playing to castigate herself or apologize for minor mistakes — a shift in style and stage demeanor that she herself has attributed to cleaning up and kicking alcohol. That edgy, tightrope act approach to concerts still remains at the core of her live gigs since moving away from the dreamy psych-folk of her early works toward the mesmerizing, de-constructed southern soul that’s her current bag.
After channelling her (alternately) emotion-drenched and ghostly vocal style into the framework of classic Memphis R & B honed by Al Green and Syl Johnson into her most acclaimed LP to date (2006’s The Greatest), she put together her current backing band, Dirty Delta Blues, featuring members of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Australia’s Dirty Three, to mine that swampy, besotted strain of lowdown.
It was that lineup that entranced a large and fairly rapturous crowd at last weekend’s Echo-Project festival in Atlanta with sparse, ethereal takes on Marshall’s own originals, and drastically retooled covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and Dan Penn’s “Dark End of The Street.” Throughout that gig, the singer prowled the lip of the stage barefoot, cradling her mic as one might carry a precious vase.
Her trademark odd(ly affecting) stage movements and furtive glances to each of her bandmates only reinforced the notion that these skin-and-bones arrangements of what at times sounded like a fever dream vision of Steve Cropper sitting in with Skip Spence might fall apart at any moment.
It was a rare display of fragile, cathartic knife point “rock” at its most elegiac."The originator and the emancipator" Dexter Romweber returns!
In a surprise, last-minute announcement that will likely have scores of indie-rock fanatics, aging hipsters, mid-’80s UGA graduates and White Stripes acolytes tinkled pink, the Dex Romweber Duo has been tapped to open six dates for Cat Power throughout Georgia and Florida.
Friday night’s show here in Savannah is the fourth night of the run.
The chance to see an underground icon of Dex’s stature in a 1,200-seat theater is a humdinger, as if I’m not mistaken, the last time he played Savannah was about seven years ago at the 120-capacity Velvet Elvis.
For those unfamiliar with Romweber, he’s an intense —and at times unhinged— guitarist and singer whose pioneering psychobilly/surf/garage combo The Flat Duo Jets came to prominence in the mid-’80s thanks to a mind-blowing live performance in the cult documentary Athens, GA Inside Out. After a handful of reverb-drenched guitar and drum albums and tours with The Cramps and Iggy Pop, he faded into obscurity, but the impending release of an acclaimed documentary film on his life and music seems destined to bring him the resurgence he so richly deserves — if only for essentially inventing the style of music made famous by Jack and Meg White and The Black Keys, among others.
For this tour, he’s joined by his sister Sara on drums, formerly of Mitch Easter’s brilliant jangle-pop combo Let’s Active.
As Jack White himself said of Dex, “He was and is a huge influence on my music. His songwriting is one of the best kept secrets of the rock and roll underground.”>
For more info on the man, see www.myspace.com/dexterromweber.>
Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues with special guests The Dex Romweber Duo play Trustees Theater Friday at 8 pm. Plenty of good seats are still available for $30 (or $27 with valid SCAD ID) at the Trustees Box Office on Broughton St. (phone: 525-5050) or online at www.trusteestheater.com.