This Neko Case article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
Celebrating a diverse and extensive musical catalogue, and the release of her career-spanning vinyl box set ‘Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule’, the legendary Neko Case took to The Lexington on a windy Monday night.
The room was hushed; silence descended over the audience as the sparseness and minimalism of support act Lyla Foy’s music rang out. It was so quiet that the sounds of glasses clinking at the bar could be heard, as well as the occasional phone message-tone going off. Although the act consisted only of Lyla and her acoustic guitar, there was an intensity to the performance, and the audience were mesmerised by her amazing vocals and the beauty of her songs. Her banter between songs made her immediately likeable, and she left everyone wondering what her music more typically sounded like, considering she usually plays with a band.
One of the special things about this gig was the intimacy of the venue. It was warm and cosy, with everyone in close proximity to each other, as well as the stage, and the audience were implored to not take any photos. Neko came on joined by her three male musicians, and professed straight up with a giggle; “we are fucked today.” Whether this was referring to their jetlag and only two hours sleep, or having drunk too much, no one was quite sure, but either way they seemed to have it pretty much together throughout the whole gig.
The line-up of instruments varied between different configurations; three guitars, two guitars and a piano, two guitars, and in most songs either a double or electric bass. There was diversity between the songs in terms of the music styles; jazz, blues, pop and folk. There were some particular stand-outs, but not a lot of variation between the instrument set up or the general sound.
Once she had warmed into the night, Neko’s voice was predictably powerful, despite a few moments of wavering pitch. Overall the performance sounded good, but lacked a bit of energy, and didn’t provide much more than the album. It must be noted however that this gig was only a warm up to their performance the following night at the iconic Union Chapel.
‘Vengeance is Sleeping’ stripped back the music backing from the three driving guitars and double bass that had come before, to twinkling guitar, a pretty piano line, and the raw power of Neko’s voice
It would have been nice to hear more harmonies throughout the set; when they were used, it really brought the songs alive. The lilting 3-4/Waltz timing of ‘Night Still Comes’ was a welcomed addition to the set, with the rich piano sound and passing chords, the strong harmonies, and the pretty melody making this track soar above the others.
In ‘Look For Me, (I’ll be around)’, Neko harnessed the power of the true jazz greats, pulling out a jazz voice to rival Nina (Simone) or Ella (Fitzgerald). The room transformed into a late night jazz club and as we sipped on our red wine, we were all transported to a whole other place. This song was an absolute highlight of the night, and it brought the whole feel of the song alive.
Neko’s make-it-yourself music box she calls ‘the Shigby’ made an appearance in ‘Middle Cyclone’, which added a very nice touch and delighted the audience.
Her songs are generally short, which enabled 20 to be included in the set, showing a good cross section of the box set. The night ended with the beautiful ‘The Needle Has Landed’, followed by ‘I Wish I Was The Moon’, featuring the lead being played on a slide guitar. And in the beauty of the song, with the reflective sentiments of ‘”thought that I was young,” and “I’m so tired,”Neko bid us all good night and ended with a deep bow as the audience cheered.
Neko Case is well known as one of the longstanding Gods of music, and her solo work as well as collaborations will already go down in history. Her dedicated fans were all too happy to forgive any imperfections or jetlag-induced mistakes to hear the renowned singer and musician perform her songs. Her melodies are mesmerising, and her lyrics are inspirational.