concert review: Neko Case, Crooked Fingers @ Trinity-St. Paul Church (Toronto, Ontario) - April 17, 2009
Up till last Friday night I'd seen Neko Case live three times (ok, four times if you count her shortened-set-due-to-hail-storm at Sasquatch Festival in June 2006) - January 2005 at the Phoenix, July 2005 at Harbourfront Centre, and April 2006 at Berkeley Church. Neko's one artist whom I've promised to see live every time she returns to Toronto and of course I needed no convincing to buy a ticket when I found out she'd be playing Trinity-St. Paul Church. In fact, for the occasion of the release of her newest CD "Middle Cyclone", she sold out two nights at Trinity-St. Paul's.
Opening the night was Crooked Fingers. It's a shame that after Archers of Loaf were no more, I'd never taken the time to explore Eric Bachmann's work as Crooked Fingers [I've had the debut CD for a long time and never really listened to it]. As on display at the show last Friday, it seems Bachmann's raspy vocals with Archers has developed warmer, smoother tones with Crooked Fingers. Similarly, Crooked Fingers steers away from the noisy melodicism of Archers but rather is steeped in isms of folk, country and lo-fi pop. Joining Eric were multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Tim Hussman on drums, percussion and keyboards, and maybe a few other things and bassist / vocalist Miranda Brown. With Eric on vocals and guitar, it was a deceptively simple setup but the songs were so rich in melodies and the instrumentation surprisingly robust. Banter was minimal [although he did mention something along the lines having to go to church almost every day in his youth, and not being back since], keeping the vibe of the set perhaps a little too polite. That aside, the music more than spoke for itself.
It was a casual Neko with her untamed mane of fiery red hair, dressed in sleeveless top, capri pants (which she kept on having to tug up, to the amusement of the audience) and cute but sensible shoes, who made her presence to us last Friday night. Her number one gal pal Kelley Hogan (who when she wasn't singing was like one-half of a comedy team with Neko) was there on background vox, with Jon Rauhouse on guitar and pedal steel, guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, and drummer Barry Mirochnick, all who played on "Middle Cyclone". The set leaned most heavily on "Middle Cyclone" and Neko's previous album "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood"(highlight being "Hold On, Hold" which she'd written with Toronto's The Sadies and who she'd acknowledge to us) but she also pulled out wonderful renditions of tracks from "Blacklisted"('Deep Red Bells', 'I Wish I Was The Moon'), the title track from "The Tigers Have Spoken", as well as a cover of Sook-Yin Lee's 'Knock Loud' off of Neko's covers EP "Canadian Amp", all the while as artful, nature-themed screen projections, with the screen itself adorned by a giant owl and what seemed like silk-screened trees, were displayed behind them . There's no hesitation on my part in saying that Neko vocals were spot on and the musicianship (particularly drummer Mirchnick's spectacularly fluid drumming, Rauhouse's sublime pedal steel work, Hogan's complimentary background vox), but it was a shame that things out of Neko's control (my own tiredness, the muddy acoustics up in the balcony, the uncomfortable seating) affected my enjoyment of the show slightly. In retrospect, I should have grabbed a seat on the main floor (which I had the opportunity to do earlier in the evening) where I'd assume the acoustics would have been better and perhaps the seating may have been more comfortable. Definitely next time. Credit still needs to be given to Neko for putting on yet another great vocal performance. Wish I was able to capture some photos for posterity. Dang, no-photo policy.
There was a cool chalk drawing of Neko's "Middle Cyclone" album cover outside of the venue. Here's a photo of the creatively adorned video screen (photo taken AFTER the show was finished of course).
chartattack(who also have the setlist) and JAM! have reviews of the Friday April 17 show.
Chromewaves was at the Neko Case show Saturday night. suckingalemon has a photo of the setlist from the Saturday night show. I am SO jealous that Neko glammed it up for the night and wore a dress - not to mention having Garth Hudson as a special guest.
Apparently, Neko'll be back later this summer to play Massey Hall. I'm getting goosebumps already.
MySpace: Crooked Fingers
MySpace: Neko Case
In other news:
Tattoo Rock Parlour will host The Field, and The Juan Maclean on June 18
Female keyboards-pop trio Au Revoir Simone are at Lee's Palace on May 21, tickets $12. Their newest album "Still Night, Still Light" is out May 19 through their own label Our Secret Record Company - via The Yellow Stereo.