Neko Case’s journey from alt-country chanteuse and indie songstress (The New Pornographers) to something that now resembles a symbiotic fusion of the two has been one that has sometimes found her struggling to find a niche and suitably broadminded audience. On her most recent album she sounds the most settled and of herself and so the timing was perfect for her to step up to the auspicious surrounds of the Sydney Opera House.
Accompanied by her five-piece band Case took to the stage of the two-thirds full concert hall and greeted the audience with a smile and admission of nerves to be playing at the venue. Generally that would be the icebreaker and the musicians would drop their shoulders and settle into playing but unfortunately for Case it became immediately apparent that the onstage monitors weren’t going to play ball. For at least three songs she gestured wildly, finger pointing upward with increasing frustration as she struggled to hear herself. The general sound was off, too quiet and the band sounded like they were in an echoey hall but gradually things improved. By mid-set Case finally relaxed and gave herself whole-heartedly to playing and singing with that angelic voice that seemed to effortlessly play with clever, creative melody.
The band filled their roles well with the spotlight often falling on backing singer Kelly Hogan who was something of a sidekick to Case, providing hilarious banter between songs that lightened the mood considerably during the early difficulties as well as singing near perfect harmonies. Case dipped into most of her solo releases with highlights including That Teenage Feeling, a magical rendition of Night Still Comes and an a capella performance of Nearly Midnight, Honolulu that silenced the Opera House with it’s naked emotional resonance. From a dodgy start the show blossomed into a wonderful display of song, musicianship and above all the beauty of Neko Case’s singing.
this review was first published in The Music