Case] by Andrea Grant
Case has a huge following, and yet a lot
of people don’t know who she is. She
has been described as a neo-Patsy Cline
with a sick sense of humor. Her music is
unique enough to not fall into just one
category, reminiscent of such conceptual
artists as Nick Cave – a mixture of
rockabilly and country twang, with a morose
blues element. I have been obsessed with
her albums from the moment I started buying
them – intelligent lyrics, sung with
a ripe woman’s voice, as opposed to
the safe, higher-pitched tone that a lot
of female vocalists favor.
Valentine’s Day, I went to see the
sold-out Neko Case show at the Bowery Ballroom.
The Ballroom had the stale odor of Halloween
and broken hearts. It’s a medium-sized,
tri-layered room filled with the Lower East
Side’s most enthusiastic.
Sadies opened up, fronted by tall, thin,
Canadian brothers Dallas and Travis Good,
who do double duty as Neko’s band.
An obsessed and crazy fan kid from Iowa
turned to me and said: “Neko can burn
in hell. I came to see these guys. I’m
not gay – but look at the sweat dripping
off Travis’ forehead onto the stage!
Sexy! I’m their biggest fan!”
wait,” I warned. “When you hear
Neko sing you’ll change your mind.
The Sadies are cool because they play with
so she came out, red-haired and charming.
“The tenderest place in my heart is
for strangers,” she said. “Happy
Valentine’s Day, New York! I’m
glad we get to go on a date together.”
she went right into the Blacklisted title
track… “Slow down fast train…take
me with you?” with a thick, velvet
voice that startled all the non-believers.
has a self-deprecating humor which she likely
adopted while going to college in Canada.
She started to do a cover of Blue Oyster
Cult’s ‘Reaper’ but then
trailed off and said, “Sorry - I don’t
really know the words!”
played a lot more of her ‘twangy’
stuff, and a couple in the vein of those
type songs that make [her] so weak and sappy’.
crowd went mental for a gospel song, which
was a rather amazing response for the usually
stoic, cool kids of NYC. They went equally
crazy when she played a creepy new ‘date
killing song’ written with the Sadies,
with the chorus: “Make the bed your
river, young girl.”
else would one expect from an artist who
often appears dead on her album covers?
accordion player Garth Hudson (a.k.a. ‘the
teacher’) showed up for a couple of
songs, and when there were technical sound
issues, Neko held up the manic energy of
the crowd with witty repertoire as Dallas
Good went to get her a double Jagermeister
it’s burning hot in here,” Neko
your shirt off,” someone screamed.
you were a little kid, do you remember how
there was sometimes a piece of lumber lying
on the grass for a long enough time that
the edges of the grass were yellow?”
She said. “And then you decided to
lift the board, and it was disgusting with
all these worms and stuff? That’s
what it looks like underneath my shirt!”
the back-story of the joke is that Neko
got into some trouble a few years ago when
she performed in Nashville at The Grand
Ole Opry in insanely hot weather. She took
her top off. She was wearing a bra, which
was modest enough, but Tennessee still had
a fit and threatened to ban her. This may
be one reason she has an album called Blacklisted.
handled the chagrined media gracefully by
saying, “Hey – I wouldn’t
want to see me without my shirt off either!”
Case has the kind of fans who remember every
climactic point of the show was a staged
‘double Sapphic suicide with an element
of cannibalism, followed by a gospel song,’
which Neko said was the most offensive Valentine’s
Day skit she could think of. It entailed
a skit where Neko and another woman enacted
declarations of love, then pretended to
stab one another so that there was fake
right, man,” the kid from Iowa said
in a fevered sweat, as he prepared to rush
the stage. “Neko ROCKS!”
Case ended the night with an ode to New
York City, and an impromptu adlib to that
very irritating 1990’s ‘Feel
Like Makin’ Love’ song. But
with her grace, humor, and powerful delivery,
it somehow worked.