Louisville's music-connoisseurs made it out in droves last night to see the red-headed artistry of Neko Case. It was a Monday night and the sun hadn't yet set, but the sold-out show's line snaked through Headliner's parking lot and onto the street. Massive, tattooed bouncers rifled through purses yelling, "No cameras! Sold out show!" reinforcing the caliber of the singer soon to take the stage.
Neko Case took the stage in a simple hooded sweat-shirt and jeans, her tousled hair indicative of the casual ambiance of her show. The band surrounding her: a stand-up bassist, drummer, lead guitarist, slide-guitar/keyboardist, and a back-up singer that did most of the witty banter with the audience, was also laid-back and blithe due possibly to their fatigue--this was the sixth city they played in six days.
Case opened the show with "Things That Scare Me" as a bit of a sound check, but the second song, "Maybe Sparrow" rang through Headliners with the same beautiful clarity and perfect melody you would find on one of her acclaimed indie-albums. Her voice was polished and pure, delivering her songs as they were meant to be: like snippets of poetry laden with vivid imagery, stripped free of unnecessary la-la-la's and redundant chorus. Her songs are short but powerful, and the audience obviously appreciated this. Everyone around me, packed in like sardines, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the creator, was singing along (myself obnoxiously included). The witty back-up vocalist commented she hadn't seen an audience sing along like this since "Stroke Me, Stroke Me" except that everyone was singing about Margaret losing three fingers in the cannery quoting from "Margaret vs. Pauline".
The highlights of the night's set list included (but were by no means limited to) "The Pharaohs" "I'm an Animal" and the high-notes in "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" were executed with precision. Truly, I felt every song performed was a beautiful success and rang heartfelt, including the four encore songs beginning with "Vengeance is Sleeping" (how can you not love the lyrics I drug the clanging notion I was nobody). All 21 songs in her set were performed by 11:00 pm, putting her performance at about 1:40.
The only criticism I had of the show was it seemed she was a little taken aback with the packed house filled mostly with genuine music-lovers. On a Monday. Several women in the bathroom line told me they had driven down from Indy or Cincinnati to hear her. On a Monday. Even Neko herself admitted she felt a little nervous. Nervousness or not, her performance was spot-on, proving once again, this is a great town for music--even on a Monday.