Garage, Oslo on 15 May 2006
Reviewed by Andreas on 22nd May 2006
This is my first ever country-ishy gig, and I am suitably worried that it will all break down into line-dancing mayhem. Ok, line-dancing mayhem might be quite an amusing event to attend, but I am not dressed for the occasion (tatty converse, trousers with holes in them and a four-day-beard) and that would simply not do. As such it is with weary steps I enter the concrete hole/venue called Garage. I catch the last bits of Neko Case's opening act, some woman with a guitar presumably singing about how life is hell (come on, we all know that's what country music is really all about, don't we?). It's alright, but seeing as I missed most of her set, I won't be including it in the review. Simply doesn't seem fair.
Neko Case is a woman perhaps more commonly known through Canadian band The New Pornographers, who apparently play rock/poppunk or similar. Case herself is not actually Canadian, has released a plethora of lovely alternative country/rock album and has a voice so good it could make things come to life.
The songs that constitute tonight's set is largely taken from her latest album "The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood". As always it's quite hard to describe what a given artist sounds like, but the most ready comparison I can think of is Smashing Pumpkins at their most country-twangy. Lapsteel guitars swoon, the bass hums and Neko sings a glorious tune. In the flesh, the songs on the album really - really - come alive and create atmospheric melodies that are simply wonderful.
The band itself, apart from Neko Case and her backup singer, look like they could be teachers. In fact, I'm sure the bass player used to teach me how to make even cuts back in woodshop. Teacher or no, they're some of the most proficient musicians I've ever laid eyes on, pulling off the most impressive tricks and licks with seemingly no effort. That's country musicians for you.
"A Widow's Toast" is a tiny little song that is over far too quickly, and "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood" blurs the lines between alternative rock and country in a delightful way, with Case's clear and crisp falsetto piercing the mid-section. The rest of the concert is a remarkably touching affair, with Case singing like there's no tomorrow and doing so with surprising ease. There is even banter. Yes, that's right. Banter. From the guitarist that looks a bit like he's in pain when he plays, even.
I have very few complaints with this gig, I completely enjoyed it. Still, I suppose it wasn't perfect. It could have been longer, for a start, but the band has to call it a day at some point.
Neko Case live is a lovely mix of country twang, light alternative guitar rock and a voice that makes the hairs on your arms stand up. I can't wait to catch her and her band live again, hopefully with another set of wonderful songs. A must see.
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