Neko Case Keeps It Real & Weird at The Beacon Theatre (SHOW REVIEW)

Even after more than 20 years in the business, Neko Case still gets nervous on stage. She told us so at the top of her September 20th show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Before she even played a single note, she had to be up front with us about that. And Case carried that spirit of “keeping it real” and “making it weird” throughout her lengthy and well-rounded set that spanned at least five of her records, including this year’s phenomenal Hell-On. Case has always claimed to feel a little shy on stage, but it is part of what makes her a thrill to watch. There is such self-assurance in her voice, which cuts clear through the atmosphere like a freshly sharpened knife. Contrasted with her hesitance, it is part of what makes her a fascinating artist to behold.

Staying true to the strong feminist statement Case made with Hell-On, her commentary and explanation of her songs felt like an authentic, and often a hilarious funny tribute to women. Noting the giant golden statues of “mother***in’ Athena” that flank the stage at the historic Beacon Theatre, Case dedicated the ethereal beauty “Winnie” off Hell-On to the ladies in the house. Herself flanked by the beautiful backing vocals of Shelley Short and Rachel Flotard, it was a stunning performance of one of the album’s best songs. Later in the show, she sang the short, but hypnotizing gut-punch “Calling Cards” off 2013’s The Worse Things Get, offering it up as a love letter to her many beloved bandmates. “Because I’m a husband-less troll,” she told us. It gave everyone a laugh, but also some tears as we were all likely conjuring up images in our heads of the friends we hold as close – or closer – than family.

Elsewhere in the show, Case performed older favorites like “Deep Red Bells”, “Maybe Sparrow”, “Hold On, Hold On” and “Margaret vs. Pauline”, her voice still able to stop you in your tracks. Highlights off Hell-On included “Pitch Or Honey”, “Halls of Sarah”, “Last Lion of Albion” and “Bad Luck”. Case alternates comfortably from jumping in on guitar or hanging back and keeping time with a tambourine.

After a quick outfit change wherein Case slipped into something a little more comfortable (read: jeans), she brought the house to their feet for an encore that included “The Pharaohs” and “This Tornado Loves You” (off 2009’s Middle Cyclone), Hell-On’s title track, and “Ragtime”.

For all her talk about feeling nervous, she looked comfortable and right at home on the big stage, surrounded by her six bandmates. It’s where she comes alive and brings us all to life with her.

Neko Case Setlist Beacon Theatre, New York, NY, USA 2018, Hell-On

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