That voice, that astounding voice. Neko Case played The Egg in a transitional stage on Thursday: at the end of a tour playing her “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” album and the start of road-testing new songs for its much-anticipated follow up.
So there were rough spots in the new ones, and her attention wandered some in the older ones.
But that voice, that astounding voice, rescued everything; and when she was fully invested in the material and her band felt confident, she was fantastic.
In conviction and chops, Case is 10 times as country as Rascal Flatts or Kellie Pickler, who recently filled the Times Union Center, but with something other than country.
Case asked the crowd to cross their fingers in support of the new songs, and they clapped eagerly on recognizing such favorites as “Margaret Vs. Pauline” and “Deep Red Bells.” Jon Rauhouse’s pedal steel solo took “Bells” to roadhouse heaven and his banjo powered the soaring “That Teenage Feeling.”
Her immaculate band, whose rocking neo-stringband sound resembled Ollabelle, was crucial to these two, but the perfect match of Case’s voice with her words elevated the show far above the more casual moments that lent the proceedings an informal charm.
She wrote, and sang, with impeccable clarity and punch, such heart-stopping words as “when you’re older, and full of cancer,” followed by the promise “I will always love you.” She testified that, “you’re the one I still miss.” She mused, “I wish I was the moon,” while attaining considerable altitude and atmosphere and with another simply tremendous Raujouse pedal steel solo.
Case proved herself to be every bit as impressive a talent as a songwriter as she is a vocalist, and that’s very impressive, indeed.
She has the imagistic verbal power of young Bob Dylan, the clarity of Iris Dement and the confident bounce of Patsy Cline.
She knows how to entertain, too; serving up spunky covers of Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back” and Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart.”
When they cranked up the gospel-flavored “John Saw That Number,” the uplift was terrific, a final encore not even they could top.
In solo troubadour mode, without his band Crooked Fingers, Eric Bachman was singularly effective; Dylanesque in his writing but with a much better voice.
Images of the sea recurred, as comforting image or threat, as in “Devil’s Train” mourning someone “drowning in a sea of strangers” amid waves of acoustic but emphatic guitar.
Some songs sounded like ancient folk tales, others post-modern meditations on wasted lives and tattered love.
He thanked the crowd for its quiet politeness, musing that everyone present must have had abusive parents to keep them in line.
His dark side also emerged later when he professed confusion at his brother’s bad reaction to a song written to the brother’s daughter, warning her of a bad man coming for her.
“Lonesome Warrior,” typically tuneful, typically tormented, asked a lover where he’d gone wrong.
But he was completely confident asking for another drink for an old drunk in the proudly ambivalent drinking song that wrapped his opening set.
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Categories: Life and Arts