I don’t know how you could go to a Neko Case concert and not fall in love with her.
For one thing, you’d have to hate hearing beautiful voices. Friday evening at the National in Richmond, VA was my first time seeing Case perform live, and I’m convinced that hers is a voice that you could listen to infinitely, as if hearing it were as natural and essential as respiration or a beating heart. Powerful without overpowering. Precise, but not robotic. Weighty, but nimble as all get-out. It was the main event, but it folded into songs comfortably, leaving plenty of room for backup singer Kelly Hogan to add depth and shape to the melodies (Hogan also served as Friday’s opening act – a feat of endurance that grew more and more impressive as the night went on).
You’d also have to hate warm and personable stage banter. Case and Hogan traded self-deprecating digs all night, chatting between songs about topics like Case’s lyrics (they joked about how all her songs are about “dead birds”) and the glamour of life on the road (one of the two singers called their tour bus “a Pringles can full of farts rolling down the road”). Being invited into such an unguarded conversation makes one feel good, and it fosters an intimacy that you don’t often find at concerts as big as Friday’s was. Even when Case firmly asked the crowd not to take video during the show, she couched her request in vulnerability, saying that it makes performers nervous.
Oh, and you’d have to dislike really well-written music. The set list included fan favorites like “Hold On, Hold On” and “Star Witness,” as well as a few new tunes that are slated to appear on an upcoming album (she said the project was waiting at home “in the freezer” to be finished). I’d gotten ready for the show by listening to her most recent release, 2009’s Middle Cyclone, so I was particularly excited when she played “Magpie To The Morning” (check out the studio version below, along with “I’m An Animal,” which also appears on Middle Cyclone).
Case’s performance left little doubt in my mind as to why her fans are so loyal, and zero doubt as to whether I’d count myself as one of them from here on out. The evening’s trajectory reminds me of the old expression, “Nothing is certain, except death, taxes, and Chipotle making you feel awful.” After Friday night, I’m ready to add “Falling in love with Neko Case when you see her live” to that list.