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BEING THERE: Neko Case @ The Keswick

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Photo by MATT SHAVER

The first time I heard Neko Case sing was at a live show and she was singing just to me. The year was 2004 and I was at the Tower Theater, er, sorry, Tower Records, in Fairfax Virginia. The listening stations were a favorite spot of mine after classes. I’d post up on those shiny red stools and bury myself in whatever the staff was recommending at the moment, and in this moment it was The Tigers Have Spoken. I was hooked from song one and have been enthralled ever since.

Neko has THE voice – recognized across the room by everyone immediately – like Tori Amos, Tom Waits, or Tricky. Over the years that voice, often drenched in reverb, has been party to some of the best alt-country-folk-Americana-rock-blues trail mix this side of the Appalachians. Friday night, the Keswick Theater was blessed with that sound, and that voice in fine fashion, bringing along a lot of songs. Neko and crew brought a wide variety of her catalog to life. A healthy mixture of fan favorites and deep cuts made grand appearances. The soaring chorus of “Deep Red Bells” spread out majestically across the Keswick’s walls, and while she kept things mostly lively, there were periods of dirge-ier sounding songs, such as “Winnie” from her latest release, Hell-On.

While Case and company peppered the evening with banter, the music is where she seems most comfortable. A lot of crowd pleasers made appearances–“Lion Of Albion” “Hold On, Hold On” “This Tornado Loves You” “Halls Of Sarah” and “Margaret Vs. Pauline” all sounded magnificent. One of my favorites has always been “Maybe Sparrow.” It’s starts gently, weaving the cautionary tale of the titular Passeridae, and builds to an intense peak. The whole song is really an excellent showcase of Case’s vocal range, and that night was one of the finest renditions of it I’ve ever heard. At one point in the night, an enthused fan called out “We still love you!” Which was either in reference to a perceived mistake earlier in the evening, or a glorious call back to the end of “Train From Kansas City” on The Tigers Have Spoken. Whatever the case, we all did still love her, and I think the feeling was mutual. — MATT SHAVER

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