Sunday, January 27, 2008

Neko Case Live at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY Januray 26, 2008

This post originally appeared in the Tompkins Weekly under the title, "State Audience Responds To Neko Case"

Even though it is an unusual way to start a concert review, I must first off thank my wife. She stayed home with our two sick kids, allowing me to attend Neko Case’s concert on January 26 at the Historic State Theatre in Ithaca, New York. Thanks, Love, I owe you!

That said, let’s just get it on the table right off the bat: I’m a huge Neko Case fan. And judging by the near-sold out show, I’m not the only one. Getting the opportunity to see her in a great venue like the State Theatre was a huge treat. The State is so intimate for a 1600 seat theater and even in the balcony the stage seems very close. But what made this show even more special, was the fact she was out for a very short tour to road-test new songs for her album that will, hopefully, be released later this year.

Listening to Neko Case’s voice on her records is great. To get to hear her live was fantastic. She could really fill the room with her voice. It almost seemed as though she didn’t need a mic. She proved she’s the real deal—no Auto-Tune for her. In addition, her band was rockin’! What a great group of musicians. The band was made up of Tom V. Ray on bass; Paul Rigby on electric and acoustic guitars; Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel guitar, banjo, and guitar; John Convertino on drums; and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals. She’s been playing with this group for several years, and it shows. Each musician’s part was integral to each song. And as a testament to the great sound of the show, you could clearly pick out each part in the mix. It was perfectly balanced. While the entire band was great, I especially enjoyed Jon Rauhouses playing. He really proved that the banjo could be pretty rock and roll. Kelly Hogan’s dog, Augie, joined the band on stage for most of the show. The dog, in fact, stayed on the stage after the final encore was played and only left with great prodding.

The show’s set was largely comprised of songs off her most recent album Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. The show opened with “Widow’s Toast,” which starts off acappella. What an amazing way to open. Neko’s voice just filled the place. It was really magical. There were, of course the six new songs, as well as two covers. One of the covers was a great version of Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart.” The set was filled out by a few older songs, such as “Deep Red Bells” and “Favorite.” The new songs were killer. It is certainly going to be hard to wait until Neko Case’s new record comes out.

While the performance of the songs was tight, the band’s stage presence was loose and fun. They were easily able to handle the calls from the audience for songs as well as comments from members of the crowd who thought they were pretty witty. When one woman called out, “Neko you’re beautiful,” she responded by saying, “Thanks mom.” To my taste there was a little too much audience participation, not to mention the people near me who talked through the whole show. It may come as a surprise to these folks, but the vast majority of the audience didn’t actually come to the show to hear them yell from the audience or talk through the concert.

If you missed this show or just didn’t get enough of Neko Case, you’ll get another chance to see her when she returns to the State Theatre on April 13 with her other main band, The New Pornographers.


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