Neko Case @ Vogue Theatre -- 04/15/15

About a year and a half after the last time she was here, Neko Case kicking off a spring tour in Vancouver, returning to the Vogue Theatre.

Due to a bit of a slow moving line outside the Vogue, I got in the theatre a few songs into the opener, Alialujah Choir. I immediately -- and correctly -- guessed that the sharp-dressed, six piece band was from Portland; their rich, folk-rock sounds, bolstered by a whole compliment of instruments ranging from keys to stand up bass to slide guitar. They even utilized a theremin for a small section on of the the standout songs, "Hell of a Trick". Frontman (more or less) Adam Shearer chatted between songs, quick with stories about a song, their hometown, or crossing the border (and mentioned they even had their own coffee at the merch table).
After a couple songs they ended their set off microphone, each member standing in a row at the very front of the stage for a completely unamplified song, even though they were battling with the chatter filtering in from the lobby. They put on a really enjoyable set, and I wouldn't be surprised if they won over more than a few new fans that night.

After a little bit of My Morning Jacket between sets (the person responsible for the between-set-music just put on their album Evil Urges and I was more than okay with that) Neko Case came out and immediately sent chills throughout the sold-out theatre with her unparalleled voice. She opened with the almost entirely a capella "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu", joined on backup vocals by Kelly Hogan, the first show back with Case since touring with The Decemberists, apparently.

From there, the whole band burst forth on the intense "Bracing for Sunday" as the show went on to spotlight Case's entire career, going all the way back to her debut album Blacklisted, and showcasing her range from the slowed down alt-country jams of songs like "The Pharaohs" to the more rocking and fiery "Man", and everywhere in between. Other highlights included the aptly-named, frantically swirling "This Tornado Loves You", the heartbreaking "Margaret vs. Pauline", and one of my favourite Neko tunes, "Hold On, Hold On".

Aside from the vast amount of musical talent on stage, the other great part of seeing Neko Case live is her banter; amusing one-offs between songs, like why one tambourine is better than the other, but especially the back and forth between her and Hogan, who definitely share the same (sometimes sick) sense of humour.

After over an hour of music, Neko & the band wrapped up the night with a few older songs in the encore, "Outro With Bees" and "I Wish I Was the Moon", before sending everyone off perfectly with "Ragtime", the final song off the latest album The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.

Be it on her own, or with The New Pornographers, it is always a pleasure seeing Neko Case play live, and this show was no different.

Nearly Midnight, Honolulu; Bracing for Sunday; Where Did I Leave That Fire; This Tornado Loves You; That Teenage Feeling; If You Knew; Local Girl; Nothing To Remember; Margaret vs. Pauline; City Swans; The Pharaohs; The Tigers Have Spoken; Hex; Deep Red Bells; Red Tide; Wild Creatures; Calling Cards; Hold On, Hold On; Night Still Comes; Man.
(encore) Outro With Bees; I Wish I Was the Moon; Ragtime.

Neko Case @ Orpheum -- 09/20/13

It's been some time since the last time Neko Case was in Vancouver, and even longer since there was a new album. But it was a sort-of-homecoming for the Virginia singer -- who got her start in Tacoma before moving up to Vancouver -- as she came through promoting her new album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. (Which is my favourite album title of the year, so far)
The gorgeous Orpheum Theatre was packed for the show, her New Pornographer bandmates spotted in the crowd, and I can't think of a venue that would be better suited for someone like Neko Case.

Opening the show was Vancouver's own Wake Owl. The band sounded good, but sadly most of Colyn Cameron's vocals were nearly indistinguishable; they were drenched in reverb, which may have sounded great in a smaller venue, but in a large room like the Orpheum, they were muted and not at all clear.
They also only seemed to play new material, not dipping in to the Wild Country EP. A strange decision, as I am sure a hometown crowd may have recognised a song or two from rotation on The Peak and CBC Radio 3.
That being said, it was still an enjoyable set; the new songs sounded good -- laid back, but with an underlying intensity -- and I hope to catch them again sometime soon, at a venue where I can actually hear Colyn's lyrics.

It wasn't long after that Neko Case took the stage, with a giant painting (similar to the album art) hung behind her. Starting off with "Where Did I Leave That Fire" off the new album, the set featured a good mix of new and old songs; and for the entire show, Case's absolutely phenomenal voice had the crowd captivated, despite her warning earlier in the night that the entire crew had a touch of tour-sickness. From her voice soaring in "Night Still Comes" to the soft and beautiful "Calling Cards", there was not a single song where her voice was less than impressive. And that's to say nothing about her backing band; Kelly Hogan on backup vocals matched her intensity (and her dirty sense of humour between songs), guitarist Eric Bachmann held his own, and Jon Rauhouse held the whole show together on guitar, pedal steel, and for one song, trombone.
Other highlights included older songs like "This Tornado Loves You" and "Hold On, Hold On", the intense "Bracing For Sunday", and a cover of Mike O'Neill's "Andy".
The set came to a conclusion with the fiery "Man", but of course they were back out for an encore. First, performing "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" off the new album, an a capella song that showed the true power of Case's voice, and may have caused chills and a little bit of tears. After a couple more songs, including the heartbreaking "Margaret vs Pauline", she ended with the dark and foreboding "Red Tide", and once more genuinely thanking everyone for coming.

Case is one of my favourite musicians -- certainly my favourite female singer -- and this show absolutely reinforced that. No doubt it will end up as one of the best I've seen this year.

Where Did I Leave That Fire; This Tornado Loves You; Bracing For Sunday; Lion's Jaw; That Teenage Feeling; Set Out Running; The Pharoahs; City Swans; Ragtime; Andy [Mike O'Neill cover]; In California; Deep Red Bells; Calling Cards; Hold On, Hold On; Night Still Comes; Man. 
(encore) Nearly Midnight, Honolulu; Local Girl; Margaret vs Pauline; Red Tide.

Summer Live w/ The New Pornographers, Neko Case & Hannah Georgas @ Stanley Park -- 07/09/11

All year the city of Vancouver has been celebrating its 125th year, and this weekend is one of the events I have been looking forward to most: Summer Live; a weekend of free shows in Stanley Park, showcasing Vancouver talent. The first night, which I had to miss, had Mother Mother headlining, but with the lineup they had for the second night, I knew nothing was going to keep me from it.

There was music happening nearly all day, but I showed up at 6, just in time to see the gorgeous Hannah Georgas. The sound for the whole event wasn't really that great, but Hannah seemed to have the worst least good sound. The drums especially seemed a little loud throughout the set, but that aside, it was quite enjoyable. Joined, as usual, by Andrew Braun & Johnny Andrews of Rococode and Robbie Driscoll of everyone (seriously, if I had a nickel for every time I've seen him play with a different band...), she started off with “Chit Chat”, and a few more from This Is Good before a couple new songs, mentioning a new album in the works, which I am eagerly anticipating. “Your Ghost” and "All I Need", off The Beat Stuff EP, were definite highlights of the set, and she ended, after wishing Vancouver a happy birthday, with "The Deep End".

Chit Chat, Bang Bang You're Dead!, Lovers Breakdown, Thick Skin, Dancefloor, [new song], [new song], The Beat Stuff, Let's Talk, Your Ghost, The National, All I Need, The Deep End.

Next up was the person I was most anticipating for the day, Neko Case. It had been over two years since I last saw her live (not counting shows with The New Pornographers), so saying I was just a little excited is an understatement. She started, and ended, for that matter, with songs I didn't recognize, but the bulk of her set was off her last two albums Middle Cyclone and Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, with a few new ones thrown in. The new songs sounded great, and her voice was, as usual, simply amazing. From lulling the crowd with the softer songs like "That Teenage Feeling" to knocking people over with sheer power on songs like "People Got A Lotta Nerve", her voice in unparalleled. Another thing that makes Case so enjoyable live is her great banter and sense of humour on stage, especially between her and backup vocalist Kelly Hogan.
They, too, had some technical difficulties, but it is always incredible seeing Neko Case live, and I just hope it's not another two years before I get to see her again.

[mystery song], Maybe Sparrow, People Got A Lotta Nerve, Fever, The Pharaohs, Hold On Hold On, That Teenage Feeling, Middle Cyclone, [new song], Margaret vs. Pauline, [new song], Vengeance is Sleeping, I'm An Animal, I Wish I Was The Moon, Red Tide, [new song], This Tornado Loves You, [mystery song].

After Case I rushed over to the second stage to catch the last bit of The Zolas. As I got closer, I could hear the shrieks of the crowd, and Zach introduce a song as “about sex... or the lack thereof...” and I rounded the corner just in time for “Body Ash”. I only caught four songs, but they were as good as I've seen them; Zach especially seemed to have more energy than usual, bounding around stage. They “ended” with “Pyramid Scheme” -- which I don't think I had ever seen live, so I was happy to hear it -- before coming back (they acknowledged the faux pas of doing an encore while not the headliner, saying Said The Whale insisted) with “You're Too Cool”, which ended with a crowd sing-a-long.

(partial) setlist
Body Ash, These Days, Pyramid Scheme.
(encore) You're Too Cool.

At that point I made the executive decision to head back over to the main stage for The New Pornographers, and miss Said The Whale. Even though I have had bad luck with STW shows this year, I had still seen them thrice since I last saw The New Pornos. Plus... it's The New Pornographers!
They kicked off the set mentioning that Kathryn Calder was running late -- Case threatened to ground her, “With [her] grounding stick” -- so they started off with a couple older ones until Calder arrived. (To be fair, it was kind of insane getting to Stanley Park). From there they played for over an hour, hitting songs from all their albums, with loads of singing along.
Highlights of the set were "Adventures In Solitude" (despite the crowd's terrible offbeat clapping) and especially “Testament To Youth In Verse”, one of my favourites; though it just wasn't the same without Dan Bejar. In fact, I was a little disappointed that Bejar wasn't there at all, but of course it was still a great show regardless. They ended with one of my favourite songs of ever, “The Bleeding Heart Show”, which was an absolutely perfect way to cap off the day.

The Slow Descent into Alcoholism, All For Swinging You Around, Challengers, Moves, Sweet Talk Sweet Talk, Use It, Adventures in Solitude, Crash Years, All The Old Showstoppers, What Turns Up In The Dark, The Laws Have Changed, Testament to Youth in Verse, Your Hands (Together), Mass Romantic, Sing Me Spanish Techno, The Bleeding Heart Show.

It was a fantastic day of music, and I am now convinced that Hannah Georgas and Neko Case need to tour together... but I have to admit, it did end on a little bit of a sour note. During The New Pornographers final song, I could see something thrown on stage – looked like a water bottle – which just reminded me of the video of Case snapping when a CD was thrown on stage at a show.
After the song the set was done and nothing was said, but after the usual cheering, there ended up being no encore. I chalked it up to curfew, but according to Chris Coburn of The Peak, who was emceeing, there was no encore because Case did not want to go back out due to the thrown object. Which, good. Artists should not have to deal with that kind of crap, and as much as I wanted an encore, I fully support them in not going back out.

Favourite albums of 2009 (part the first)

It's only a little late, but I finally got caught up on my backlog of albums from 2009 I wanted to review; I think I did just about every new album I picked up during 09 -- which was over 50! -- so now I might as well post my favourite twenty albums. And yes, that is "favourite", not "best", so while something may be technically "better", these were the ones I liked the most. Also, they are in order of release date, as I am terrible at numbering/ordering things.
Were I a more organized person, I would have sat down this long weekend and listened to all 20 albums and come up with something new and exciting to say for each, but with my laziness school term coming to a close, I just didn't have the time, sadly. But I have given quick thoughts about each one, as well as included links to all the previous reviews I did on the albums, which are still as valid now as they were then.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two!

Get Guilty by AC Newman (original review [warning, on the lamelivejournals])
catchiest songwriter around?

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand (original review [warning, on the lamelivejournals])
full of surprises

The Beat Stuff EP by Hannah Georgas (original review[ku])
can't wait for a full length

The Happiness Project by Charles Spearin (original review)
most interesting album of the year

Middle Cyclone by Neko Case (original review [warning, on the lamelivejournals])
unparallelled voice

Three by Joel Plaskett (original review [warning, on the lamelivejournals])
not many artists could pull off a triple disk

The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists (original review)
is there a more epic word than epic?

Calm Awaits by Black Diamond Bay (original review)
patrick krief is my new hero

Fantasies by Metric (original review)
a culmination of their strengths

Battles On by The Ghost Is Dancing (original review)
criminally under-looked.

So, what do you think so far? Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something major? Just like to complain? Let me know!