Thursday, June 29, 2006

my own blood is much too dangerous

Oddly, I'm not feeling any PCD at the moment. It probably helped that just as I left Chicago, I was on my way to see a show featuring a bunch of performers with strong ties to that very town.

Neko Case, Bimbo's 365 Club, June 27, 2006: Neko herself claimed that she had never played three--let alone four--nights in a single city, but leave it to San Francisco to take her in, dust her off, and tell her to put her feet up. Some people in front of me were planning to go all nights, but I knew that Neko didn't change her setlist much, so I didn't feel the need to hit more than one show. My only miscalculation was that they added a fourth night (with Eric Bachmann from Crooked Fingers opening, no less) long after the initial run had been announced. Thus, I couldn't adhere to my rule about going to the final night of any multinight stand.

Neko's definitely not an artist I would've investigated if it weren't for my Wilco conversion, but boy, am I glad fate ran its course. It's all about that voice. Never mind the Grand Ole Opry and its silly ban on her--not even the Grand Canyon could hold Neko's pipes.

For this tour, Neko highlighted her most recent album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, devoting about half the setlist to the newer songs. In between, she interspersed older titles, such as the erstwhile opener "Favorite," which moved to the number two spot for the night. We also heard chestnuts such as "Set Out Running," "Deep Red Bells," and "In California." (Note to non-Californians: Everything in that last song is true.)

I've seen Neko a number of times now, both solo and with the New Pornographers, as well as accompanied by various backing bands. From what I can tell, she thrives in an environment when she's surrounded by strong personalities to inspire her hilarious banter and to give back as good as they get. One of her best foils is, of course, Carolyn Mark, but in her stead, Kelly Hogan fit in beautifully. (The other is Carl Newman, but that's a different story.) I think my favorite statement from Kelly was how she felt like a "pallbearer at a hooker's funeral," referring to the bustier she wore under the sound man's (?) blazer, in combination with her red fuck-me high heels. On the other side of the stage, Jon Rauhouse--master of all manner of stringed instruments but especially the pedal steel--threw out jokes at Neko. She in turn put him on the spot more than once, but it was all in good fun. Frequently during the show, Neko would look to him, confirming my suspicions that he's one of her most invaluable collaborators.

More important, both Kelly and Jon provided gorgeous backing for Neko's songs. Kelly's voice is ridiculously pretty, and Jon practically stole the show with his expressive, soulful riffs. By the time they ended with "John Saw That Number," you could feel the connection throughout the room--not only between the band members but with the audience as well.

The opener was the local singer/songwriter Sonny Smith, whose appearance belied his show. He started off modestly on solo acoustic guitar, then was joined on the second song by two guitarists--one of whom was Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco. As Sonny's set progressed, more people joined him. Soon enough, he had a full band, and by the end of the set, when both Kelly Hogan and Neko Case also took the mic, we were in for a downright hootenanny. Sonny's songs were quite good, populated by vivid characters, all contained within rousing hooks and choruses. If you think folk music is boring or old-fashioned, this show could change your mind.

See also:
» listening for too long to one song
» you may be sweet talking, daddy

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