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Neko Case
Pablo Cubarle
[Neko Case] by Andrea Grant

Neko 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.

On 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.

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!”

“Just wait,” 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 non-believers.

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?

Legendary 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 shot.

“Whew, it’s burning hot in here,” Neko said.

“Take your shirt off,” someone screamed.

“Hey…when 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 off either!”

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.

“You’re right, man,” the kid from Iowa said in a fevered sweat, as he prepared to rush the stage. “Neko ROCKS!”

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 worked.


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