This isn't so much a gig as holy Mass.
This isn’t so much a gig as holy Mass. The worshippers are crouched at Chan Marshall‘s feet, scrutinising her every movement with silent, breathless awe. No-one dares order a drink, applaud, or even twitch, for fear that the slightest distraction might puncture the magic, cause her to tumble from her taut emotional tightrope or run from the stage in tears. It’s an extremely tense situation, but worth every thirsty, cramp-limbed moment.
Marshall‘s psychological delicacy (albums written to stave off demons, crippling shyness) is legendary, and the evening is punctuated by moments of paranoid superstition. “I’ve got to have this here,” she says, pointing to the glass by her foot, “and this here,” nodding to the set list. “Otherwise something bad’ll happen.” Shrouded by her fringe, she stops intermittently to mutter about the sound, which she thinks is “weird”, but which is actually perfect. None of this, however, detracts from the charged, wrought beauty of her performance.
Marshall adheres almost exclusively to her recent ‘The Covers Record’, opening with a minimal, marrow-baring take on ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ending with a fragile ‘Sea Of Love’, after which she makes a wonky devil sign and scuttles off. It wouldn’t matter what she played, though. As her cracked, Southern-drawled voice rings out with brutal clarity, all those ‘female Smog/Will Oldham’ comparisons make perfect sense. She could infuse a KFC jingle with bruised, hypnotic grace.
Chan Marshall needn’t worry. In her hands, the chances of anything bad happening are very slim indeed.