Photos By Ryan Kelly, Words By Andy Johnson
With simultaneous concerts happening on Halloween by Drake, Passion Pit, Jessie Ware and Fitz & the Tantrums, it’s understandable why the median age of Neko Case’s Thursday show at the Lincoln Theatre must have been 35. Unless I’m deeply underestimating her youth appeal, I assume that most of Case’s younger fans opted for her sold-out Wednesday performance in order to keep their Halloween free for debauchery. Nevertheless, the older folks (and me!) who attended Case’s Halloween show were privy to a fine performance by one of alt-country’s powerful voices.
Considering the date, it’s only fair that the artists enjoyed the holiday. Opener Lucy Wainwright Roche, the daughter of Loudon Wainwright III, was dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Occasionally accompanied by her mother Suzzy Roche (dressed as a witch) and her dog (dressed as Toto), she performed a medley of songs off her new album There’s A Last Time For Everything. The highlight of her set was an acoustic cover of “Call Your Girlfriend,” which she described as a turning a “rocking” song into a “snoozer.” The song, stripped of its electronic production, is given a new sheen of emotional honesty as Roche, who came off as likeable but shy, sang beautifully about calmly “giving reasons” for ending a relationship. Unfortunately, she did not mimic Robyn’s goofy dancing from its music video.
When Neko Case came out shortly after 9 pm, she was wearing a costume I didn’t recognize. The cheeky Case called us “God damn fools” suspecting she was dressed as a weird buccaneer with a cat tail, clarifying she was ‘80s singer Adam Ant (circa 1982) while backing vocalist Kelly Hogan went as present-day Adam Ant (who resembled a rotund English policeman). To further add to the absurdity, the rest of her band was dressed as Santa, Count Truckula, a giant baby and a grizzled Walt Whitman.
Opening with “Where Did I Leave That Fire” and “This Tornado Loves You,” Case’s voice was vibrant and loose throughout the night, bewitching the audience with tales of broken hearts and lost love. She also deserves a shout-out for dedicating “Night Still Comes” to mental health awareness. (Case has long suffered from depression). But in counterpoint to her bittersweet songs, Case is legitimately one of the funniest artists I’ve seen on stage, bantering back in forth with Hogan and the audience about the pleasures of Halloween.
Later, Case, a self-proclaimed bachelorette, joked that for one night, she was dressed as her own imaginary boyfriend. She also undercut the emotional pull of “Margaret and Pauline” by saying she was so relaxed by performing in disguise that she “just wanted to fart.” As she closed the evening with “Ragtime,” she raised a toast to the audience and said, “To Halloween, the only holiday that’s worth a shit.”
It wouldn’t be fair for a singer to dress as Adam Ant and not pull out one of his songs, so Case and her group dusted off one of his lesser-known singles (Case’s emphasis, not mine) “Place In The Country” for the encore. I’m not that familiar with Adam Ant’s discography, but I enjoyed watching Case, clad in face paint and toy guns, strut around the stage while reading lyrics off a crib sheet. If things couldn’t get any weirder, the band rolled out not one, but two Heart classics – “Barracuda,” featuring Hogan on lead vocals, and “Crazy On You” – to end the night. All in all, the show was great, and while I disagree with Case that Halloween is the only holiday worth celebrating, I grant you that a Neko Case Christmas show would not nearly be as fun.