Tuesday, 27 February 2007

ARTIST: Neko Case
VENUE: The Henry Fonda, Los Angeles
DATE: 02-27-07

REVIEW BY: Aaron Autrand
PHOTO: Timothy Norris

There’s something to be said for the amount of pull an artist has with their peers. In the instance of Neko Case, there’s a hell of a lot of it. On her recent tour, she played with Eric Bachman of Crooked Fingers and supported Merle Haggard, and will play with Emmylou Harris in March. In rock terms, those last two would compare to artists like Dylan and Joni Mitchell, just to put it in perspective.

Case’s special guest for her recent show at the Henry Fonda was country legend Porter Wagoner, her new label-mate at Anti-. Following Bachman, Wagoner shuffled onto the stage in a purple Nudie suit, along with fellow country star Marty Stuart. Together the two played a handful of Wagoner’s hits, including “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” as well as covers like Johnny Cash’s “Committed to Parkview” and Hank Williams’ “Men With Broken Hearts.” Wagoner’s 80+ years may have contributed to a forgotten lyric here or there, but his cachet in the music world secured him an all-star backing band, as he and Stuart were joined by Dwight Yoakam on bass and actor Billy Bob Thornton—himself bedecked in rhinestones—sitting in with brushes on the drums. Even the indie kids were impressed.

I’ve said it before—here on the pages of Ground Control, in fact—but there’s a fairly decent chance that if Neko Case wrote a song that predicted my death three weeks from now from some grisly cause, I’d still think it was completely awesome, right up until the point where I lost consciousness. Following a live show, my now recently-deceased soul would probably go on tour with her, haunting the nooks and crannies of the musty theaters. There’s something about a girl with a guitar—a white SG in this instance—that inspires a rabid following. The packed crowd, sprinkled evenly with country fans and hipsters, roared when the curtains rose and Case and her band roared into “Things I’m Afraid Of” off of Blacklisted. The set that followed was mainly comprised of songs fromBlacklisted and her latest effort, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, including the highlights like “Margaret vs. Pauline,” “I Wish I Was the Moon” and “That Teenage Feeling.” Alternating between the SG and a beat-up, undersized acoustic—and a sultry little sidestep when she wasn’t holding an instrument—Case and her band played a tight set that was marked by her huge vocals, the music often dropping out from under her as her voice soared over the crowd, especially during “Star Witness” and the encore of “Deep Red Bells” and “John Saw that Number.”

As the cross-section of country and rock fans—an older crowd than you’d see at most shows on a Saturday night at the Fonda—wandered out into the night, they were met with the realization that they weren’t stepping out into Nashville or Memphis, where they’d been for the past few hours, but back onto Hollywood Boulevard. To be transported for a night on the wings of that voice? Well worth the price of admission.

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