Neko Case @ Apollo Theater

MANHATTAN, NY—Neko Case is something of a ringer. Whether or not you’ve seen her live, watched performances online, or just know the albums she’s released on her own and with the New Pornographers, it’s evident that her voice rises a step above the rest. There’s soul in the timbre, mixed in with the country twang, which allows her to reach across not just genres, but decades and historic movements. In simpler terms, she’s timeless. This made her show at the Apollo all the more appropriate, as the venue and the artist complemented each other in that rare way that turns a concert into an event, and—even if it’s a lie—makes the show seem historical.
After a rather rough opening performance by knock-off Radiohead impresario, Søren Jull (in which he struggled to adequately play and tune his instruments), Neko Case took the stage. Backed by a three-piece band featuring Crooked Fingers frontman Eric Bachmann on guitar, Case went on to bring down the house. One may see many frontmen in life, but few are as note-perfect, nuanced, and clear in their singing as Case, who arguably sounds better than on record. When she falters during the intro to “Night Still Comes,” Case makes a joke about messing it up and restarts perfectly.

The show was in support of Case’s new retrospective box set, Truck Driver, Gladiator, Mule, and appropriately pulled songs from various points in her career. Highlights included a stripped-down rendition of “This Tornado Loves You,” “Margaret vs. Pauline,” “Middle Cyclone,” and a cover of Scott Walker’s “Duchess,” which has rarely been performed since the release of her debut album, The Virginian. In concert, each song is both a marker of Case’s evolution, as well as a reminder of how timeless her music (and tastes) have always been.

The biggest complaint I have is that the set was a little short, not in terms of content, but time. Consisting of 20 songs, the set ran just shy of 90 minutes. After two standing ovations, it was clear that no one in attendance could get quite enough. There may be more theatrical concerts soon, more hot acts touring at the height of their power, but few will likely match Case & co.’s panache, collaboration, or raw talent.