The reason I started listening to Neko Case is not through chance hearing of one of healthy array of solo material, or due to her work with Canadian indie rock supergroup The New Pornographers, but possibly due to my almost exclusively wearing hand knitted jumpers as a child.
Yes, my indie pop leanings stumbled upon Neko as a drummer in 90s darlings Cub, but her music has come a long way since then.
The biggest difference is she’s picked up the mic, and thank god she did as her siren-like vocals are as impressive as they are unique; also, there’s none of that saccharine indie pop about her now, in fact ‘cuddlecore’ is a term I’m sure she’s left squarely in the past, much like everyone else.
Case now delivers alternative country that crosses the line between dark and hauntingly beautiful to delightfully catchy with ease and all with a touch of the surreal, and 20 years on from her indie pop beginnings she healthily fills Oran Mor with a mostly middle-aged crowd eager to hear her powerful vocal tones.
First up though is another member of the Wainwright clan of musicians, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who sets the evening off nicely with a set full of warm amusing banter, despite the crowd’s relative reluctance (aside from one guy) to participate in proceedings; it is Sunday night after all.
Lucy, who did originally seek to move away from her family’s traditional profession, looks at home on stage as her charming folk stylings fit perfectly with the tonight’s headliner, who she acts as backing vocals for on occasion as the night goes on.
A lovely cover of Robyn’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend’, which removes the pop punch and acts as a showcase for Lucy’s vocals, gives a nice calling point for those not familiar with her with work, although she does state that she doesn’t agree with the song’s sentiment: “if you’re in that situation the last thing you should do is call your girlfriend”.
An increasingly awkward chat with the one member of the audience choosing to break the silence, shouting out menial questions and compliments about her knees, is saved by Eddi Reader, who Lucy supported on her last visit to Glasgow, popping up side stage to say hi, but all in all this is a performance that has sees a healthy audience stand up and take notice, if her family name hasn’t already forced that.
As Neko Case makes her way on stage accompanied by an impressively bearded band there’s a sense of silent admiration in the crowd; no one came out on this dreadfully wet Sunday night to party, this is the beautiful warm end to the weekend that everyone was looking forward to.
Tonight’s set relies heavily on new album, the ridiculously long titled The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, but there is a nice selection from her two previous studio releases Middle Cyclone and The Tigers Have Spoken too.
Like the lengthy album title people have come to expect the ridiculous from Case, since she went solo her focus matter has been left-field to say the least, and to describe her as simply a country singer cannot be justified anymore, as the dark pop of her records justify.
Tonight from time to time she looks kind of weary but that may be down to the constant tuning her, and her band, seem to be doing, but her amusing exchanges with the audience (“there’s male roller derby too, but they don’t show it as much cos there’s no boobies”) do plenty to quell that, and when she lets loose that voice you quickly forget any potential criticisms.
It’s hard to pick out set standout as new favourites like ‘Night Still Comes’ and ‘Man’ stand perfectly well alongside older hits ‘Hold On, Hold On’ and ‘This Tornado Loves You’, but tonight isn’t about individual songs, it’s sense of something special, an escape from the horrible conditions outside and the wonderfully endearing Case delivers this on all fronts.
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Michael Gallacher