Now that I’ve had a bit of time to let the impressions sink in, I thought I would put a few words down. A couple weeks back, we traveled to Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater to see Neko Case in concert. In retrospect, I’m happy the Chicago show at The Vic was sold out and gave us an excuse, at Jon’s suggestion, to make the trip. Despite the distance, the night was a good time: we had our pick of seats, the vintage theater architecture and decor were beautiful, and the band delivered a solid performance. Just a couple of dates into the tour and it showed a bit—I’m pretty sure the opener Martha Wainwright was in her cups (forgetting lines and what not) and the set list felt like it was still taking shape, including a cover of Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain”. Neko’s onstage persona was relaxed and goofy, sometimes to the point that it was antithetical to the gravity of her songs, which was OK but begged the question . . . why?
Interestingly, the supporting cast was as much the highlight as Neko herself: Kelly Hogan exhibited that Renaissance ideal, sprezzatura—effortlessly delivering her brilliant backing vocals and warmly reining in Neko when she got away from herself. Jon Rauhouse possessed a scary level of musicianship and artistry too. Watching him saw away at the pedal steel guitar with an organic, fluid mastery, you got a very real sense of the countless hours surely logged sweating out the notes. I walked away impressed and anxious to see where this all goes.