I’m not sure I’m even qualified to report on what I witnessed last night in Little Five Points, but I’ll give it a try. Songstress/songwriter Neko Case performed a fantastic set in front of a sold out crowd at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA (tons of great pics here!). She and her five piece band did everything I expected and more, while putting on 1 of the best shows I’ve seen to date.
Since I had not been to a Neko Case concert before (or Variety Playhouse for that matter), I wasn’t sure what to expect. The venue is a theater from yesteryear, complete with a concession stand at entry, auditorium seats and a shadowy balcony. The audience demo ranged from 20-55, pretty evenly split male to female, which happens when an artists has been around as long as Neko Case has. This also made it easy to shuffle to the second row in a general admission show.
Denver, CO based Crooked Fingers opened promptly at 8 with a short set of indie rock . I had always heard about finger picks before, but watching lead singer Eric Bachmann play fingerstyle was an experience.
Just after 9:15, Ms. Case took the stage to a resounding applause. ATL was the second stop on her latest tour and she often mentioned being “terrified” playing songs from her latest, Middle Cyclone, for the second time ever. This resulted in more hilarious commentary (topics included encounters with The Hold Steady, politely refusing requests, etc) than miscues. I only noticed an issue with the music box on the title track, but I’m sure it will be fixed on the next stop.
Despite her fear, Case ran through many tracks from Middle Cyclone and a number of self-described “deep cuts” that had most of the venue singing along. I knew her music had an alt country feel to it, but it was even more apparent live. Aside from a drummer and guitarist, she incorporated a bassist who also played upright bass, a musician who dabbled in slide guitar among others, and ATL’s own Kelly Hogan, who held down music box, tamborine and acoustic guitar. It must be a pre-requisite to play at least 2 instruments to tour with her. Case herself wielded at least 3 guitars.
Neko Case’s sultry voice was the main attraction this evening though. She opened with the mid-tempo cut, “Maybe Sparrow”, which was just a warm-up for the catchy single, “People Got A Lotta Nerve”. Topics ranged from animals (“The Tigers Have Spoken”), to troubles for a tomboy (“The Next Time You Say Forever”) to dual personalities (“Margaret vs Pauline”). Other standouts included the spooky “Prison Girls” and spirited “That Teenage Feeling”, but there wasn’t a bad song in the set. I could have used “John Saw That Number”, but I was 99% satisfied. Common throughout the show was how Case’s chanteuse persona captured the audience’s attention with the help of her veteran band. Before the encore, she closed with “This Tornado Loves You” and it was clear how the Variety Playhouse felt about her.