Concert Review: Neko Case

Neko Case at Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA on 3 Febuary 2011

Opening act: Lost in the Trees

I had a rare boy night out last Thursday and took in a performance of one of my favorite vocalists Neko Case famed for her solo career, work with The New Pornographers, and knowledge of NECCO Wafers.  While I’m feeling that I’m getting too old to to go to concerts I was cheered to see an elderly couple standing front and center by the stage as well as many others who looked my age or older.

The opening act was a large group of North Carolina youngsters who had a Decemberist-ic/art school band vibe with a moody Thom Yorke-type on vocals and guitar, a string trio, and a tuba among other instruments.  I was fond of the spunky and befeathered young woman stage left who played numerous instruments including a french horn, a drum, a xylophone, autoharp, and accordion as well as adding ethereal vocals.  Their processing on to the stage with a large dinosaur puppet and streamers added an extra level of pretension that they really didn’t need.  I wanted to like this band – they are talented musicians and put a lot of spirit in their performance – but I just don’t think they’re my thing.

Neko Case took the stage with a kind of just-rolled-out-of bed look and spent much of the show trying to tuck up her long hair.  I wish I had a hair band through on the stage.  She played with a large band of her own although she could have easily stepped out alone and sung a cappella for all I cared.  I’ve noted in an earlier review of the poor quality of the amplification at the Wilbur Theatre and this night it felt like the amplifiers were standing between me and hearing Neko Case’s voice although she was but 20 or so feet away.  Nevertheless, it was an entertaining show featuring many of Case’s best songs and a great rapport with her band and the crowd.

On a previous visit to Boston, Case threatened violence at an audience member who threw a blunt object at the band, but there was no such unpleasantness at this show.   Instead when an audience member shouted “Too much guitar!” (perhaps hoping to hear more of Ms. Case’s voice), Case responded “Don’t let the dudes know that, they won’t want to kiss you.”  Accompanying vocalist Kelly Hogan added both harmonies and witty repartee with some funny stories about performing in a medieval church and imagining the dead buried in the crypt below requesting “more lute!” Another adoring fan proclaimed love for Case and wanted to have her babies.  Neko responded, “If I had a baby, it would come out addicted to meth. And pregnant.”

Case and her band played nearly two-dozen songs including at least a four-song encore.  I know that because I ducked out to get my coat near the end of the third encore and heard another song playing as I walked down Kneeland Street and discovered I was passing the stage door.  I stood and listened for a while and then noticed two vans parked right in front of me with Vermont plates.  So I knew where to stand if I wanted to be a groupie, but instead I walked to the T station to go home to bed.

Here is most of the set list as I wrote it down during the show.  I missed a few songs, so if you were there please help me fill in the blanks:

  1. Things That Scare Me
  2. Maybe Sparrow
  3. Fever
  4. People Got a Lot of Nerve
  5. The Pharaohs
  6. Middle Cyclone
  7. Hold On, Hold On
  8. Margaret Vs. Pauline
  9. Prison Girls
  10. I ‘m An Animal
  11. Dirty Knife
  12. I Wish I Was The Moon
  13. Red Tide
  14. Polar Nettles
  15. The Tigers Have Spoken (?)
  16. Don’t Forget Me
  17. That Teenage Feeling
  18. This Tornado Loves You


  1. Vengeance is Sleeping
  2. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
  3. John Saw That Number
  4. (don’t know, but it sounded good from the street)

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