Thank You, Neko Case

Neko Case
The Lyric 9/25/2008
Oxford, MS

As debate anticipation and chaos fell more heavily upon the Square, and our Republican and Democratic nominees landed in Oxford, so did Neko Case’s needle. And as that reference is nothing without its lyric, so The Lyric was nothing on Thursday night without its star. And a Star Witness was I.

The Lyric, Oxford’s newest music venue, opened its doors in July and has since occupied its stage with the nationally-toured voices of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Jenny Lewis, and The Drive-By Truckers. And it was as if their talents were only the preface to what Neko Case would bring when she arrived Thursday night. Case’s golden voice and red hair held our eyes and ears captive for the entirety of her 90-minute show. Her second album, “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,” was performed almost in its entirety, while the set list also included teases from her upcoming release.

Case, whether with her Boyfriends, the Pornographers, or alone, mesmerizes with her witty banter and intoxicates with her mostly-hopeful ballad lyrics. The translation from studio to stage is flawless, reminding you that Patsy Cline is but a memory.

As her deeply metaphorical tune (and my personal favorite) “The Tigers Have Spoken” filled the room with her tasteful Gibson picks and our minds with the ease of the settlement of all our anticipation, the show began.

Her stage presence went from something luminous to damn near euphoric. And the exchange of wit between Case and her backup Kelly is a good story that should be bound and titled. The plague and tales of unrequited, failed, and sometimes-successful love finds its way into each of her songs. And legend has it that Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” always finds its way on stage, and this time didn’t disappoint. Those “honey, baby” refrains never sounded so good. Her taut and loaded lyrics are nekocased perfectly inside the sounds of twangy guitars and an upright bass. And I’ve never not had a good time when banjos and dulcimers were involved.

It’s a perfect mixture of country and folk so magical it never feels like either one at any given time. Each song is but a paradox of building tension and letting it go, made possible only by her unshakeable (unless purposed) voice. Arguably, she can pen some of the best lyrics in song-writing history, making metaphors and mythology intertwine so beautifully. Suddenly, when Neko sings it, words like “I sold my soul but awoke just the same” become universal truths. Admittedly, she often makes me long for the heartbreak that can be redeemed through her lullabies.

Some sang along, making audible their musically induced swollen hearts. As her voice was but a backdrop to the ongoing preparation for what everyone was really talking about, it delivered a musical presentation of Americana that set the stage, literally, for the great debate. Even the band wondered if McCain would show.

Ending with “John Saw that Number,” a Biblical ballad that culminates all the laments that preceded it, Neko Case can sing ‘em all.

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One Comment

  1. this post was as good as the concert.. thanks for sharing Rachel!

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