Thursday, 26 February 2009

Neko Case at Bush Hall

Sometimes it's hard not to feel for the support band. You've got a full house, forty minutes or so to turn the audience your way, but nine times out of ten no-one gives too much of a shit about your act. They'll talk over you, wander off, come back, take phone calls by the stage. It's a real suckfest to play support, especially to an artist with a die hard fan base. Eric Bachmann, from a project called Crooked Fingers, but probably better known for being a key member of Archers of Loaf, fares a little better than that. But not by much.

There's still the 'half century' polite applause each time he finishes a song, and my attention begins wandering to guitar porn halfway through the set. Is that a thinline Tele modified with a Bigsby trem he's playing? Very nice. After he plays a song that sounds like Tom Waits (singing over a music box melody with a megaphone will do that for you), I look around the room. One man is counting out some change for the bar. Someone else is glancing around, checking out a prime position to walk to once this set is finished and other people have gone to the bar. Others have already done this. The room, with its curlicued white art deco panels and grandiose glass chandeliers, prepares for another dance. When Eric plays his last note, there is a delicate rush of bodies in opposite directions, stageward and towards the bar. My companion for this evening wryly notes that John Cougar Mellencamp called, and he wants his songs back. We walk towards the front, and when we find the right spot, are both in agreement that if you can't get a good view at this venue, you just aren't trying hard enough. The room is very warm, though, and gets warmer. A few songs in, Neko asks if it's "psychedelically hot in here". She's not wrong.

But it's a full house this evening, and when you cluster us people together we do pump out some heat. Everyone knows the show tonight is about the new album, and pleasingly all the new songs go down very well, the title track 'Middle Cyclone', about being "a tomboy in love", gets as big a round of applause as the classics that get aired. 'Deep Red Bells' is a highlight, but the songs I've been craving don't show tonight. Strangely, this is something I don't notice until the walk home. Most of the night is spent in awe at the awesomely tight country band Neko has assembled, who laugh and joke through their early nerves. Neko cracks the crowd up when she lets them in on a secret of a false start. "He (points at the guitarist) keeps whispering 'TITS!' at me". Presumably he's talking about the staggeringly talented harmony vocalist Kelly Hogan (who I've recently learned has her own impressive back catalogue). She and Neko are note perfect all night long, and their voices are so beautiful and clear it almost breaks my heart. The rest of the band all wear smiles on their faces, and the family vibe that the whole outfit exudes adds an extra layer of warmth to proceedings. It's almost like walking into a farmhouse idyll to hear angels singing over a honey drizzled country slide guitar. I've honestly never heard anything like it.

It's over too soon, and we leave for another bite at the mighty King Solomons next door. It's been some night. I can only say, should you get the chance to catch Neko Case live, don't pass it up. She's definitely made it into the 'Best Shows I've Ever Seen' category.

N.B. Found an EXCELLENT youtube clip of this show. There's a nerd with a camera in shot early on. That may be me.

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