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
The 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!”
I warned. “When you hear Neko sing you’ll
change your mind. The Sadies are cool because
they play with Neko.”
And 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.”
Then 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
Neko 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!”
She played a lot
more of her ‘twangy’ stuff, and a
couple in the vein of those ‘delicious orchestra-Platters-creepy-Christmas
type songs that make [her] so weak and sappy’.
The 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.”
What else would one
expect from an artist who often appears dead on
her album covers?
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
burning hot in here,” Neko said.
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!”
Now, the back-story
of the joke is that Neko got into some trouble
a few years ago when she performed in Nashville
at an outdoor venue in insanely hot weather. She
took her top off. She wasn’t wearing a bra.
Tennessee had a fit and threatened to ban her...which
may be one reason she has an album called Blacklisted.
She handled the chagrined
media gracefully by saying, “Hey –
I wouldn’t want to see me without my shirt
Neko Case has the
kind of fans who remember every word.
The 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 blood everywhere.
right, man,” the kid from Iowa said in a
fevered sweat, as he prepared to rush the stage.
Neko 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