live review

Neko Case

Neko Case

March 12 2014
James Cabaret, Wellington

Reviewed by Natalie Finnigan
13th March 2014

Neko Case is just so fucking cool. I don't know what it is about her exactly, but I imagine she's the kind of gal that many a human has fallen head over heels in love with.

When she first took to the stage last night I mistook the subdued response from the audience as a sign that they were festival-goers rather than fans, but as the show progressed I realised that the audience was actually just a mirror of Neko herself: a performer with depth who is not above a laugh at her own expense. No doubt she attracts fans who are like-minded.

Neko's manner is so open and easy, as was the manner of her band mates, that it actually felt like we were all just hanging out at sound check or something. The setting was intimate enough that the band could chat to members of the audience throughout the show as if they were an extension of the act.

In keeping with the atmosphere in the room, everything about Neko herself seemed effortless, from her voice (my god - the range, the tone, the pitch!) through to her apparel. Although I don't like to dwell on appearances, it must be said the woman is a fox. And, the fact that she gets up there in a simple black t-shirt and black shorts, with her cowboy boots and her flaming hair all disheveled just makes her all the more lovely.

In person she comes across as wry, unassuming and ever so slightly aloof. She is remarkably honest as a songwriter, but as a performer she gives the impression she is guarding something of herself closely. Her songs are intimate, and I've seen many musicians resort to self-deprecation in an attempt to shield themselves from the naked light of the stage. That really pisses me off, and thankfully Neko didn't do that.

Instead, she said very little and let her voice and the songs speak for themselves. She also let vocalist Kelly Hogan take care of the space-filling banter that is required to stave off awkwardness while guitars are being tuned etc.

Neko held nothing back vocally and I still can't get over how masterful she is behind a microphone. I can't describe her voice - you have to just go and see her live for yourself, but this video does give you a pretty good indication of what to expect from her in person.

It takes an incredible confidence for a singer to make themselves as vulnerable to an audience as she does, because there is always the risk that she'll fuck it up. And, last night she did, but it was one of the most beautiful fuck-ups I've ever heard. It was also the one point in the show at which we got an indication there was a lot more going on under her easy exterior than she lets on.

She launched into one of her ballads unaccompanied, singing several bars acapella before being joined by the band, and when they came in it was clear she had started in the wrong key. It was no biggie and didn't really detract from the beauty of the song, but she was geniunely pissed at herself to the point that she seemed put out even after the song finished. She needn't have been. It was wonderful.

After playing for about an hour Neko left the stage with the same ease that she had taken it, but the crowd demanded two encores and probably would have gone a third if the house lights hadn't been forced upon them.

Several times throughout the show, Neko suggested the audience might like to come back again tomorrow night, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few who do. I was definitely left feeling like I hadn't seen enough, but then I suspect I could see her perform ten times a year and still feel that way. She's just so good.

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