LIVE: Neko Case @ the Bearsville Theater, 5/12/11

Neko Case Marquee

The marquee indicated “Neko Case: SOLD OUT,” but inside the famed theatre it was obvious that one of the best singer-songwriters of our era had stayed true to her ideals, playing a rescheduled (because of a blizzard) concert of 21 songs, including a trio of new songs which foreshadowed that her next album promises to be something extraordinary.

On a summer-like night, taking the stage after some fine tunes on the house system by Solomon Burke and Dolly Parton, Neko Case and her talented band ripped into “Things that Scare Me” from 2002’s classic “Blacklisted,” Jon Rauhouse’s manic banjo in particular driving the tale of “blackbirds frying on a wire” and a young girl’s recollection of being “haunted by American dreams.” The animal motif informed the next songs, too. Playing a four-string tenor acoustic, Case and company waltzed into 2006’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood”‘s uplifting “Maybe Sparrow,” and marched into the teeming-with-life meditation of “Fever” and dark-humored “People Gotta Lotta Nerve” from 2009’s “Middle Cyclone” with gusto. The standing room only crowd roared with approval.

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Aside from providing superb harmonies, Kelly Hogan served as a comic foil and part-time emcee throughout the night. She introduced “The Pharoahs” as being about “Neko’s first boyfriend – he was imaginary,” and the band took off in a very David Lynchian direction, marked by terse, reverbed guitar from Paul Rigby and Jon Rauhouse’s dazzling steel guitar underscoring Case’s tale of bitter love. “Hold On, Hold On”, powered by Case’s energetic rhythm guitar playing against Tom V. Ray’s upright bass and Barry Mirochnick’s galloping drums, beguiled with surreal images of “hanging around the ceiling half the time.” New song “City Swans” likewise depicted the liminal world of the new century; “Margaret vs. Pauline,” a crowd favorite, felt like a Joyce Carol Oates short story set to a Ukranian melody.

The second half of the show went to another level of sublime, with Case channeling energies and moods like few can. The unreleased “Calling Cards” (a love song dedicated to a band she joined in the early 1990s) fit the evening perfectly, reflecting on how music and friendships evolve faster than one can ever predict. With a smile, Case delivered “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” on her old acoustic; the opening lines to this mystical song transfixed everybody: “Driving home I see those flooded fields/How can people not know what beauty this is?/ I’ve taken it for granted my whole life/Since the day I was born.” Ray switched to electric bass to underpin a sinister riff on “Red Tide”, with Case and Hogan’s vocal interplay calling to mind the Jefferson Airplane and the Shangri-Las. “Middle Cyclone” and “That Teenage Feeling,” odes to matters of the heart, prompted audible “Wow!” remarks throughout the crowd, as did “This Tornado Loves You”, a tour de force for Case whose powerful voice surfed above the bouzouki-styled guitars of Rigby and Rauhouse.

Called back to the stage for an encore set, Case (with Rigby and Hogan in tow) delivered a mesmerizing “Vengeance Is Sleeping.” The rest of the band joined up for new song “Bracing for Sunday,” a rocking account of a “Friday night girl” who cannot help anticipating a backlash of judgment. Case owned Harry Nilsson’s wry look at decadence and estrangement in “Don’t Forget Me”; just as impressively, the evening closed with Case and Hogan launching into the ecstatic gospel stomp of “John Saw that Number,” which had many clapping and dancing in the audience like it was a revival tent show.

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photograph by Andy Gregory

Photographs at Fucking Nostalgic

Things That Scare Me
Maybe Sparrow
People Got A Lotta Nerve
Hold On, Hold On
City Swans (new song)
Margaret vs. Pauline
I’m An Animal
Calling Cards (new song)
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Red Tide
Polar Nettles
The Tigers Have Spoken
Middle Cyclone
That Teenage Feeling
This Tornado Loves You
Vengeance Is Sleeping
Bracing for Sunday (new song)
Don’t Forget Me (Harry Nilsson)
John Saw That Number

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One Response to “LIVE: Neko Case @ the Bearsville Theater, 5/12/11”

  1. gregg weinlein says:

    This is a show I did not want to miss… especially at Bearsville Theatre. But, aside from a dvd of the performance, Fred’s review provided so many key details as a reader I felt like I was rehashing over a pint a show I had already seen. Great writing. Brilliant historical perspective. Looking forward to other reviews. Gregg

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