Saturday, May 10, 2014

Neko Case concert review

Last night I went to see Neko Case at Massey Hall in downtown Toronto. I met Neko in 2004 when I was covering the premiere of the documentary Lipstick and Dynamite for PW Insider. She composed the music for the film. I was a big fan long before that film but last night was my first time seeing a full concert. The opening act was The Dodos. They are from San Francisco led by singer guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber. There is a Neko Case connection as she contributed background vocals on their 2011 CD No Color. What the Dodos normally do is hire musicians strictly for touring. For a few years they brought a vibraphonist with them. But this time they only brought a bassist. Their music is a mix of folk, alt rock with psychedelic influences. Their sound is much bigger than one would expect from a small group because Kroeber is heavily influenced by African rhythms and he is very powerful. The only problem is there are a lot of similar bands out there like Bon Iver or Iron & Wine and I think a vibraphone or some other instrument would help distinguish them from the competition. Maybe they don't look at their music that way and they are still pretty good. But there is a lot of competition in this kind of music. A lot of fans here in Canada think Neko Case is Canadian because she lived in Vancouver in the 90s when she was a member of The New Pornographers and The Sadies. But she's not. Though she is categorized frequently as the mix of alternative rock and country called alt country, I think her music is way too diverse to categorize. One singer songwriter I frequently compare her to is her doppelganger Alison Moorer. Both are difficult to categorize and both are superior singer songwriters. And they are both redheads. Neko not only has a fantastic voice but she has great diction. I can hear every word she is singing. The benchmark I use for diction is legendary gospel singer Cece Winans. If a singer can compare favourably with Cece, that's a good thing. Her band is all veteran musicians led by backup singer Kelly Hogan who has toured with Neko since 1998. There is plenty of between song kibitzing between the two. Someone who is familiar with both Neko and Kelly is Jon Rauhouse. He plays guitar, steel guitar, banjo and even trombone. He does a lot of session work with the alt country label Bloodshot Records. The drummer was Dan Hunt. Unfortunately bassist Tom Ray was ill so various members of The Dodos took turns playing bass. Neko's usual guitarist Paul Rigby is unavailable for this tour. His replacement was Eric Bachmann, lead singer and guitarist of the group Crooked Fingers. He played all the guitar solos and sang a duet with Neko in the encore that makes me want to see Crooked Fingers. That was a bonus. I had never heard of him before. Neko Case demonstrated why she is one of the most acclaimed singers anywhere. It didn't surprise me but it was great to see her live. Stay tuned as I have concerts coming up in June including a couple at the Toronto Jazz Festival.

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