Neko Case mesmerizes

Last night I went to the Neko Case concert at the Barrymore Theatre here in Madison. Her wonderful Fox Confessor Brings The Flood was my favorite album from last year, and I was very excited to see her perform live. I was not disappointed.

Hearing the music and that gorgeous voice resonate through the sold-out theater was an enchanting experience. From the Patsy Cline like crooning of the opening song, “A Widow’s Toast,” to the defiant (and almost shouting) end chorus of “Maybe Sparrow,” Neko’s voice was indeed the star of the show.

With all the excellent music Ms. Case and the band played during the show, it’s hard to name a favorite song. But the beautiful and melancholy “Margaret vs. Pauline” was a definite highlight. After it was over and the applause died down, the theater was almost silent (unusual for such a concert) as the band prepared for the next song. “You guys are so quiet,” Neko exclaimed.

“We’re not quiet,” I thought, “we’re mesmerized.”

Perhaps tired of playing the newer songs (Fox Confessor has been out for over a year now), last night’s set list was a good overview of the entire Neko Case discography. Some of the best songs of the night were from her older albums. I really enjoyed “Deep Red Bells” and “I Wish I Was The Moon” from her 2002 release, Blacklisted. The wide-ranging set list also included a Bob Dylan cover, “Buckets of Rain,” and an Everly Brothers song, “Bowling Green.”

Opening the show was Neko’s backing band, the Jon Rauhouse Quintet (with pedal steel slide guitar, bass, banjo, drums, and the occasional vocals of singer Kelly Hogan). They played a nice mix of rockabilly, country songs, and even a TV theme song (Perry Mason). They had a definite country sound but at times moved into jazz-like improvisational jams. Their sound was a good warm up for Ms. Case’s outstanding alt-country style.