On Friday night, The Orpheum’s ornate and vaulted ceiling caressed a voice so confounding in its unlikely alloy of strength and weakness, we were justified to believe that Orpheus himself had temporarily assumed the form of a red-headed goddess. Just as Orpheus charmed all living things and even the stones with his song long ago, Neko Case immediately transfixed a near capacity crowd with her timeless, curiously lyre-less, lyrical ballads: no doubt, even the building’s stone walls rejoiced.
The evening began with Case’s haunting rendition of “Where Did I Leave That Fire”, from her newest release, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. The song, featured in the album’s trailer, was even more haunting in its live skin, and set the tone for the rest of the evening by demonstrating Case’s unique ability to incite tears and laughter in a matter of minutes.
Flanked by her five piece band, Case betrayed not the slightest sign of illness though she later disclosed that a cold has plagued her from the very outset of her west coast tour. Songs such as “This Tornado Loves You”, “Margaret vs. Pauline” and “John Saw That Number” never sounded better even if, as Case suggested, they were filtered by phlegm’s semipermeable membrane.
Friday night’s concert also showcased the beautiful harmonies and acerbic wit of Case’s long time friend and collaborator Kelly Hogan. Hogan, who waxed poetic and comedic on a range of subjects from menopause to her “ladycop outfit”, kept the crowd entertained as Case tuned her four string guitar between songs. Hogan’s most recent release, I Like To Keep Myself In Pain, was one of last year’s most tragically under-appreciated records, and her pitch perfect harmonies continue to prove indispensable to Case’s sound.
Friday night was a homecoming of sorts for the notoriously transient Neko Case. Throughout the evening Case, who graduated from Emily Carr with a BFA in 1998, graciously thanked bandmates past and present for making her musical career possible. The seats were lined with such bandmates, including Dan Bejar and Kathryn Calder from the New Pornographers as well as fellow Corn Sister Carolyn Mark.
After an encore and two standing ovations, the house lights went up and Case disappeared into the rainy night. Her eastbound bus destined for New York via Philly, Case continues to live a reality so poetically described in “I’m From Nowhere”: “driving for twenty one days”, our nowhere woman leaves thousands of star-struck fans in her magical wake, proving that Orpheus continues to emerge in the rainiest of cities.