"Don't worry, I don't expect anyone to agree with me," concludes Kiki Schueler in her review of Neko Case's latest show in Madison. The golden-voiced star of indie rock and country noir swung by town on Monday night, performing with her Bloodshot Records compatriots Kelly Hogan and The Jon Rauhouse Quintet to an overflowing house at the Barrymore Theatre.
While praising Case's "gorgeous voice" and "sassy manner" on display at the concert, Schueler opined that her overall performance was "sort of boring," largely due to the songwriting. And as anticipated, several others attending the highly anticipated show were of a different mind.
"Coming almost exactly a year after the first time I saw her at the fantastic Pabst in Milwaukee, her sold out show at the Barrymore was better than I remember," writes one fan. After complimenting the opening set by The Jon Rauhouse Quintet as "fun" and noting the optimal place to stand in front of the stage, he describes what Case brought to the stage:
For the better part of her set, I was in awe. Every song was amazing, and there was no way I could pick out any best part. Hearing her sing the majority of a song in alto only to hit a high note out of the park was astounding. I was actually a little disappointed that "Deep Red Bells," one of my favorites, wasn't more powerful.He also provides the set list (20 total songs, with four coming in the two-part encore), and shares a picture he took with Case, who is preparing to shift gears this autumn as The New Pornographers release their new album.
But then she played "I Wish I Was The Moon." That song took my breath away, and she maintained that power through the remainder of her set and through two encores. When she played "Knock Loud," I was hoping it would be the last song, not because I wanted her to stop playing but because nothing could possibly top it.
Another fan notes the contributions of Kelly Hogan in both the opening set and as a backup singer for Case. "After some fun girl-centric cartoon and projector work, Neko took the stage," she writes. "The band started things off with "A Widow's Toast," which sounded lovely as Neko and Kelly's voices intertwined. The majority of the set was taken from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, which was fine by me." However, she wasn't completely blown away by the performance. The concert-goer continues:
Each individual song was a strong performance, but the problem, for me, was that each song felt like a separate performance. The show just didn't seem to flow very well -- between every song there was a break and near-silence while instruments were switched and tuned. Kelly, Jon, and Neko sometimes filled in with banter, but though it was very funny, it felt a little forced. My favorite song of the night was "Dirty Knife" -- it was mesmerizing live. "Star Witness" was also lovely. I couldn't shake the feeling, though, that for some of the set I could have just been listening to my albums at home. Neko's voice soared flawlessly, but I found myself wishing for a flaw.The concert-goer nevertheless concludes that she is looking forward to seeing Case in concert again.
Madison-based music blogger Jim Halberg was very impressed, meanwhile, approaching the show with a different set of expectations. "Classifying myself as only a moderate level fan, the medium-level expectations I came in with were easily exceeded by an extremely polished, powerful, and clear sound that exponentially improved on listening via the stereo," he writes. "It was a great show filled with powerful, precise, and honest music," concludes Halberg, particularly given the fidelity of the live music as translated from Case's studio albums.
"The show was sensational -- and I can't really describe what it was like for fear of sounding too much like a lovestruck teenager," gushes one-time Wisco-politico Ãber-blogger Christian Schneider, who also notes that Chuck Chvala may have been in attendance at the Barrymore too. "Let's just say I was catatonic -- other people in my area were dancing and clapping, and I stood frozen with my hands jammed into my pockets. She's just impossibly good." Similar conclusions were drawn by Zachary Wyatt, who placed Case on his list of "perfect female voices" after being wowed at the concert.
One fan mused upon Case's lyrics following the show, offering responses to seven of the singer's best-known lyrics. "Neko Case sings with such ease, such grace and grandeur," writes Sarah Hing Leadley in her reply to a line from "Maybe Sparrow." "I have seen her before, the experience is intoxicating," she continues. "Last night was no exception." In another response to another line from the song, Leadley continues: "Last night at the concert, every song seemed too short, I wanted them to last for hours."
Another concert-goer was less pleased, though, owing largely to the amount of anticipation for the show and the layout of the Barrymore. "We arrived at the Barrymore during intermission which was our first mistake," she writes. "What you're supposed to do is wait in line for several hours before the doors open in order to get a seat or plant yourself comfortably in front of the stage." This is indeed the standard practice at the east side theater/venue, one that resulted in a disappointing experience for the Neko Case fan.
Swinging the pendulum back is Madison music blogger Ryan Matteson. Providing the set list, he praises the overall selection, which featured most of her latest album as well as major highlights from her 2005 live album The Tigers Have Spoken and her 2002 breakthrough Blacklisted.
Overall, you couldn't have asked for a much better behaved audience than that which greeted the band last night. There were numerous occasions where Neko herself even referenced the good behavior, which certainly had more than a little to do with the band deciding to come out for a second encore to send the Madison fans home with an extra spring in their step.