Photo: Mikaeline Dissing Stavnsbjerg
The evening’s entertainment began with a shaky set by Maggie Bjorklund – who according to a last minute update from that other music publication, performed with Jack White. It was more a showcase for a woman who plays the impressively complex lap steel- but the debutant fell short on vocal abilities and songwriting chops, especially compared to what we were about to bear witness to.
This occasion was my first privilege to see Case live. I’ve heard her “live” many times on long autumn walks while listening to her glimmering The Tigers Have Spoken album from about a decade ago -possibly one of the handful of live albums that are essential for any modern artist. Since then, her songwriting has taken a more surreal turn towards the structurally un-orthodox, moving into often ‘weightier’ arrangements, tempo and dynamic variations and stewing on less orthodox subject matter than broken hearts and dusty bar room scenes. I was pumped and primed.
I had no idea what to expect from her physical appearance – but I certainly did not expect her to be so relatively ‘I could give a fuck’ in a baggy black tee and skeleton tights with her glowing red hair in a mop, but that’s the way she came boys and girls.
With little ceremony the band quickly played two numbers glued together and then two more with barely a breath in between. As soon as Case opened up and hit the first really powerful high note though in the third number, I think the audience collectively gasped. This is one of Case’s fortes, absolutely blowing the lid off a room with that voice, and what a high and lonesome pitch it is. She found the rooms sweet spot and kept attacking it all night, often with the aid of long time backing singer cum comic foil – Kelly Hogan.
The overall sound during the first half dozen or so numbers was very close and muddy however. Case kept presumably indicating to the front of house man to broaden the scope and add more uumph to her voice, but being the pros that everyone was, the band played around it, and the sound was eventually nailed and amazing, especially as the very tight backing band warmed up themselves and leaned into it.
One of the most endearing parts of the concert, besides the actual songs – was the hilarious banter between songs, both to the audience and among the band. No one really expects so many dark and hauntingly beautiful pieces of music to be book ended by borderline slapstick routines, vaudevillian dancing and straight up surreal comments on the bands apparent illness from touring and Phillipino dog asses. And with barely time for laughter or audience restlessness, the band counts it off and launches into the next.
For an hour and a half show, I can honestly say this was the best audience I have ever experienced in Voxhall. Often after a few numbers of any concert I’ve witnessed, the audience tends to get antsy and begin shuffling about, talking, making trips to the bar and generally losing interest in a show – but this time, everyone stayed put, listened with absolute focus, engaged when necessary, and generally created an atmosphere that was extremely conducive to seeing such a wonderful performance by a genuinely unique and talented act. It seemed that Neko Case and her faithful band wholeheartedly enjoyed being in our Voxhall and sincerely would visit us on the next time around, which I pray to every god and saint I know, is very soon.