Concert Review: Neko Case at the Uptown

Brian Wilson had cars and surfboards. Lou Reed had transients and smack. Neko Case, another instinctive songwriter with identifiable lyrical obsessions, has weather and animals. That’s considerable symbolic acreage, yet Case — like Wilson and Reed, to name a couple of past masters — compresses detached observation and wet hunger into distinctive miniatures. (And her gift for melodic surprise rivals even the old Beach Boy’s polished touch.) Tides and floods and tornadoes, tigers and foxes and birds of prey — Case uses a palette of primal forces to access a dreamworld where love, desire, fidelity and loss take living form and peer from tree trunks or circle overhead. In some of her best songs, they also strike and wound. The 50-watt-eyed owl overlooking Case’s stage (and her audience) last night at the Uptown wasn’t there to advise how many licks will get you to the center of a Tootsie Pop. A Neko Case owl is a predator.

Following a sleepy set by Anti- labelmate and Grandaddy refugee Jason Lytle, Case and her band, with irreplaceable singer and foil Kelly Hogan out front next to Case, were under way by a little after 9. Opener “Things That Scare Me,” the first cut off 2002’s Blacklisted, set the evening’s agenda and re-established Case’s vision: You’ve got your birds frying on a wire, and you’ve got your American dream hunting people down, all in about three minutes with no hook or harmony out of place or overextended.

Categories: Music