A word Cat Power's Chan Marshall added and repeated in her late-night TV performance last night of "Cherokee," from her Essential-branded album, Sun, was "love." She toyed with it, probed it, held onto it with all of her might — which is considerable, but which her concerned fans have certainly had reason to worry about over the years. It was a masterful simplification, really: Why dwell on how you "never knew love like this" when you can just say you never knew "love, love, love, love, love"? The love that loves, as a pre-Moondance Van Morrison put it.
Marshall's appearance on Conan came after she canceled her on-again, off-again European tour to recover from health problems. And those scanning the close-ups for clues to Marshall's condition could definitely interpret some of her facial expressions as weary or uncertain. But Marshall and her band pulled off a stoically transcendent take on an atmospherically electronics-punched song that, appropriately, explores agony and ecstasy, love and pain, marriage and suicide. Don't bury Cat Power just yet — here's hoping this break is exactly what Marshall needs.