Home / Concert Reviews / Neko Case w/ Thao & The Get Down Stay Down @ The Riverside Theater
Monday, Oct. 21, 2013

Neko Case w/ Thao & The Get Down Stay Down @ The Riverside Theater

Oct. 18, 2013

neko case riverside theater 2013
Photo credit: Sara Bill
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Neko Case held the Riverside in the palm of her hand on Friday, drawing from a full catalogue of arresting, image-filled songs; letting loose her impossibly beautiful, devastatingly present voice; and mesmerizing a crowd eager to be bewitched.

The evening began with openers Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, who kicked off the night with their blend of hooky rock and innovative instrumentation. Vocally, Thao’s delivery is reminiscent of PJ Harvey, and her instrument swapping—playing banjo and mandolin in addition to guitar—was impressive, and a pleasant reminder that banjos can be used for more than easy access to folk sound. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down have an excellent sense of themselves as a live band, managing to be engaging without seeming gimmicky, and if their current work is any indication, opening slots won’t suit them for long.

When Neko Case and her give-piece band took the stage, opening with the spooky “Where Did I Leave That Fire,” it was a sea change in atmosphere—the crowd seemed to turn suddenly rapt, anticipatory—and they were not disappointed. Case and her cohorts leapt into “This Tornado Loves You,” the opening track from her sparkling 2009 album, Middle Cyclone. Case didn’t shy away from much of her earlier material, playing such gems as “Set Out Running” and closing the show with the enchantingly sad “I Wish I Was the Moon,” one of Case’s finest songs.

Case writes her songs from a place of personal mythology, likening her subjects to animals, granting her speakers obscurity and depth, crafting songs that feel like distantly recalled memories or familiar legends handed down from generation to generation. She seems to shy away from writing that feels confessional—though another of the evening’s stand out songs, “Man,” gets close—which can make the experience of listening to Case rewarding in a way not unlike reading a good poem or finishing an excellent meal. She is capable of creating an experience filled with depth and reality, without necessarily showing us every detail.

But, none of this would have half as much power and presence if it were not for Case’s voice—impossible to ignore, and, in a setting like the Riverside Theater, stunning in a way rarely heard. Case’s vocals soared, filling the theater, hushing even the most talkative among the crowd. Case had vocal support from her bassist and drummer, but most harmonies were sung by Kelly Hogan, a Wisconsin resident and born collaborator, whose voice is, in it’s own right, incredibly gorgeous. It was this remarkable vocal presence that defined the show, and lingered with the audience long after the last note was sung. After two encores, Neko Case left the crowd to unravel her mysteries and savor the remembered sounds of a night spent in the company of a true artist.

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