Neko Case review – intimate gig where anything could happen

Lexington, London
A performance of contrasts: Case’s voice is both pure and wayward, her tunes behave unexpectedly, and the musical backing is deceptive in its simplicity

Neko Case is so jetlagged she can’t remember what day of the week it is; the kind of frazzled that gives an anything-could-happen edge to her performance. In a sense, what happens at this intimate gig is business as usual: lots of fond teasing with her bandmates, particularly long-term collaborator Jon Rauhouse, and diamond-sharp renditions of lilting country songs roughened by the abrasions of punk. But because she’s here to celebrate the release of her career retrospective, Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule, those songs tend to be older rather than newer: the bulk of the setlist dates back to 2002’s Blacklisted and 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, albums that established her as one of the most distinctively strange and enticing voices in pop.

It’s a voice at once pure and wayward, tranquil and urgent, plaintive and steely, yearning and aloof: a voice perfectly suited to circumspection and ambiguity. From the cry of “lost love” that opens Bought and Sold to the fraught relationship of This Tornado Loves You, Case takes pleasure in detailing every bump on the road to romance – but always with an air of self-sufficiency that, in Nothing to Remember, has her noting: “I don’t have a heart you can break.” Her play of contrasts is even more intriguing when applied to the subject of gender: in Vengeance Is Sleeping and Man, she could be singing from the perspective of a male character or expressing the blur of masculine and feminine within her own soul.

Her musical backing seems simple – guitars, pedal steel, double bass – but isn’t. The bleak chords of Blacklisted tilt like trees in a tempest; Ghost Wiring starts as a plodding waltz but grows wayward as the instrumentation refuses to meld. No tune behaves as you expect it to, and that suits Case exactly.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Neko Case – review

The dark, gothic melancholy of Neko Case's music is present and correct tonight, but it's leavened by her winningly playful stage banter, writes Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

15, Dec, 2013 @6:00 PM

Article image
Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You – review
Neko Case's sixth album emerges from the fog of depression she found herself in at the time of its writing, and it makes for a strange and powerful listen, writes Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

29, Aug, 2013 @9:46 PM

Neko Case, Dingwalls, London

Dingwalls, London

Maddy Costa

22, Jan, 2003 @2:37 AM

Pop review: Neko Case: Middle Cyclone

This takes a cool look at modern relationships and ancient nature, finds Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

27, Feb, 2009 @12:01 AM

Pop review: Neko Case: Middle Cyclone

Patsy Cline-inflected bellow and alt country noir sound says Katie Toms

Katie Toms

01, Mar, 2009 @12:16 AM

Article image
CD: Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken

1 star (Anti)

Adam Sweeting

05, Nov, 2004 @1:21 AM

Article image
CD: Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood


Sylvie Simmons

03, Mar, 2006 @11:57 PM

Article image
Neko Case: 'I have to battle with myself'

Singer Neko Case was at the top of her game when she was struck silent by depression. She tells Laura Barton about retreating to her ranch in Vermont – and returning fiercer than ever

Laura Barton

23, Aug, 2013 @6:00 PM

Article image
Neko Case: Hell-On review – a pitch-perfect roar of female defiance
The dauntless singer’s seventh album sees her recalling and reclaiming her life-story in the wake of a series of traumas

Laura Snapes

01, Jun, 2018 @8:30 AM

Article image
Case/lang/veirs: Case/lang/veirs review – a record of depth and scope
This debut by a supergroup of female country stars is steeped in yearning and devastation

Kitty Empire

19, Jun, 2016 @7:00 AM