Neko Case (photo: Patric Carver)
Last Wednesday, indie favorite and New Pornographer Neko Case took the stage at the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland.
Not very often is the Fox situated with fixed seating on the floor area, but for Neko’s show the setting was made a bit upscale. Regardless, there was never any doubt during the performance that she couldn’t handle that weight. Her stage presence and everything about the sound and the delivery were finely tuned and curated for maximum effect of the soaring vocals of Neko Case.
Neko’s set started promptly at 9pm with the first of several tracks from her 2009 solo release, Middle Cyclone. She followed that with “Bracing For Sunday” and “Ragtime” from her most recent solo release, 2013’s The Worse Things Get The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight The More I Love You.
Neko did not bring a ton of surprises to the table, drawing more than half the show from the two albums. She was not stone-cold serious all evening though, taking the time to offer lively banter, like being inspired by joy.
“Pure joy,” she clarified. “Not sick, weird joy. The good kind, like dogs trying to get peanut butter.”
“Look For Me (I’ll Be Around)” was one of three songs from her third full length studio release, Blacklisted, the furthest back in time that she decided to reach. Immediately following the 2002 track she treated the audience to her contribution to the Hunger Games Soundtrack “Nothing To Remember”.
“Tigers Are Noble,” from 2004’s The Tigers Have Spoken, preceded the fan favorite “This Tornado Loves You” and the track “Wish I Was The Moon” off of Blacklisted. Neko’s vocals were bright and rich with a wide vibrato, standing out especially in the a cappella intro for “The Moon.”
Not only did Neko continually shine throughout the evening, but her band was also made up of world-class musicians. From stage left, the band consisted of Kelly Hogan on vocals, Tom V. Ray on the low end, and Dan Hunt behind the drum kit. Rounding out the appropriate levels of searing twang and rocking nuances were the guitars of Eric Bachmann and Jon Rauhouse of Crooked Fingers and Iron and Wine, respectively.
Following the title track to Blacklisted (and a false start) the band moved into “Sleep All Summer,” a Crooked Fingers song that Rauhouse wrote. “He wrote that incredibly sad song because he likes to make girls cry,” Neko told the audience.
The rest of the evening focused on Neko’s last three solo albums and saw the band incredibly loose in the songs. 2006’s “The Needle Has Landed” off of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood led into the energetic 1-2 punch combo of “Local Girl” and “Man,” both from The Worse Things Get…to end the set.
About a minute after vacating the stage, Neko and her band returned to thunderous applause.
“I’ll do squat thrusts if it’ll make you guys happy,” she laughed. “Just kidding, that’d be gross.”
“She loves fitness!” chimed Hogan, eventually leading to Case opening her four-song encore at The Fox with squat thrusts.
Save for “Maybe Sparrow” from Fox Confessor, the entire encore was a treasure chest from Middle Cyclone, including the title track, “Red Tide” and closing with “Don’t Forget Me.”
Don’t worry, Neko, you won’t be easily forgotten so come back soon.