Album Reviews artists Concerts

Neko Case is Back in Chi-Town


I am happy to announce that Neko Case, alternative-country-nor-indie-rock star, is releasing a brand new record and will be playing in my neck of the woods. “Sweet Home Chicago”. I cannot wait! It’s been over four years since I last saw Neko. I thought I would dig something out from the vault to give you an idea of my enthusiasm. Here is the May 2009 article I wrote for a newspaper about my joyous experience:

Alternative Country Singer Shines at Chicago Theatre


Christopher Noe

Let me tell you about Neko Case. She is an alternative country singer-songwriter, best known for her solo career and guest vocalist with many popular artists. Neko is gifted with the guitar as well. She’s originally from Virginia and has travelled and recorded albums all over North America, including Chicago. Case primarily performs her own material and has recorded cover versions of songs by artists such as Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. Her sound is very unique as it contains “country noir” elements that have truly defined her style. Neko Case has said that filmmaker David Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and Neil Young’s soundtrack to the film Dead Man have influenced her style. Her last two albums are her most commercially successful ones. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood was released on March 7, 2006. Critics praised this record for her use of desolate imagery and nonstandard song structures. It debuted at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Her latest album, Middle Cyclone, was released on March 3, 2009. Just before she began her U.S. tour to promote the record, Case appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and it is her first album ever to reach the top ten in the United States.

On Friday April 24, 2009 Neko Case played a sold out 90 minute show at The Chicago Theatre. The stylish lobby with its magnificent staircase, stunning auditorium complete with murals above the stage and on the ceiling, all make up an amazing building called “The Wonder Theatre of The World” when it first opened in 1921. The Theatre was the first of its kind in America; a huge and extravagant movie palace. It remains today as an excellent symbol of State Street in Chicago. An assortment of the entertainment world’s brightest stars and most excellent productions have taken place on this stage, including Aretha Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, and now for the first time Neko Case. Her material is predominately introspective and passionate. You would not think that ridiculous humor would be so widely integrated into her live gig, but this was exactly the “case”(pun intended) at the show. With a charming and audience-engaging spirit, Neko and her entourage of band members made silly comments and jokes between songs for the duration of the performance. While the music remained perfect and even emotional, the banter in between involved lighthearted chatter about things like Diana Ross wearing too much makeup, Chicago being a sausage town and of course the idea of someone requesting the song “Free Bird.” The crowd was an interesting blend of intellectual college students, the heavily tattooed folks, and bearded-hippies. They watched the entire performance in church-like silence. The only comments from fans came between songs, during which they had no trouble expressing themselves (i.e. “You Rock!” “I Love you!”) in order to verbally contribute to the band’s onstage behavior.

Playing a mix of songs old and new, the inspirational redhead and her squad, gave a magnetic performance that had some 3,000 onlookers completely mesmerized. They had a large screen behind the stage set-up all night where they were projecting unique images of tornadoes, tigers, and a machine-crane among other things. A giant owl seemed to be holding the screen with eyes that glowed red. Before they even took the stage, the audience was treated to several minutes of ambient nature sounds, mostly tree frogs chirping. The room was dark except for a few flickering specs of light projected on the above mentioned screen. Earlier on, opening act Crooked Fingers, brought their own style of Indie experimental rock ranging from soothing, to edgy megaphone, and electronic sounds. Guitarist Eric Bachmann delivered commanding vocals. However, the most dazzling member of the trio was Tim Husmann, a percussionist, pianist and master noisemaker of all kinds. I was honored to be a part of these spectacular musical performances. Both Crooked Fingers and Neko Case are inspiring, powerful, and relevant in our troubled times. It’s good to know that exciting and original music is still alive.

Originally published in the May 14, 2009 issue of desplainesvalleynews Copyright 2009 Christopher Noe. All rights reserved.

P.S. I plan on blogging about my next encounter with her when I attend another show of Neko’s at the Hideout Block Party in Chicago this September! Stay Tuned!