One of the most awesomest Americanadian lady-singers, the voice-like-buttah Neko Case, played Massey Hall in Toronto this week. Before now, I was only a casual listener of Neko’s (read: I bought her last CD and listened to it approximately 2.5 times). So when my friend TJ invited me to go see her, I thought meh, why not? I hadn’t yet been to the Toronto institution that is Massey Hall and I had already planned to take that particular night off from being a rock star (ie: guitar lessons).
We noshed at Verona beforehand to ensure we had stomachs full of yummy goodness to provide stamina during what turned out to be an epic concert. When we finally sauntered our way up to Massey Hall, there were strategically placed security on the sidewalks telling everyone that there was a camera policy in effect and that no photographs were allowed. I thought it was odd that the facility had people delivering that message before we’d even gone in, but whatev. I was too busy being Henri Cartier-Bresson outside the building, as per usual.
When we went inside, the ticket takers checked our bags, took our tickets and said “there’s no photography allowed”. Yeah, I got it from that other guy five feet away from us. Anyway. Our seats were awesome — in the balcony, but next to a pole with an obstructed view so as to ensure an empty seat and so as not to run the risk of some loudmouth kid screaming and crying throughout the whole show. Sweet! The seats even sort of reclined which totally rocked in my opinion. But, of course, I’m easily amused.
Before the opening act came out, the announcer again reminded us that “no photography was allowed”. I have a very good friend who forbids me to post her photo on my Flickr page, or any other page for that matter, but I was confused as to why major stars were so against having their photo taken. It was a slight overkill, imo. Anyway, the opening act was Jason Lytle of Grandaddy fame and I was personally unimpressed. I found myself counting sheep in my head trying to make it through that disaster. Unless, of course, you like melancholy, monotonous dirges, I’d suggest you avoid his music at all cost. Unless, of course, the ticket comes for the mighty, mighty low price of free, then maybe. But just maybe. Probably not.
Thankfully, mercifully, they only played for 45 minutes which gave me a rest from the counting. And, it gave me time to pull out my iPhone to — wait for it — take a photo. Rebel that I am, I was determined to take a picture which I’ve lovingly posted to the left. You’ll notice that it’s basically of nothing except a) Neko’s road crew setting up her 13 — yep, count ‘em…13! — guitars on stage and b) my most excellent vantage point.
Of course, right before Neko came out, the announcer reminded us once again that no photography was allowed. Repetitive, much? Finally, the Neko Case goodness. And of course, as soon as she walked out, the flashes started popping. Such well behaved Canadians?! I think not! You could hear the crowd audibly going “oooh” because we knew somebody had some ‘splaining to do. The Massey Hall staff couldn’t get into the crowds fast enough to confiscate, and physically remove, those degenerates who’d broken the rules. In retrospect, it actually turned out to be a good thing for me since I am now able to provide you a glimpse, albeit illegal, at the show — so thank you Christeena from Flickr! I’ll admit that the flashes were pretty bothersome, so I was glad they busted out Jack Bauer-style and squashed the bad guys. Ahem.
So, if you don’t know who Neko Case is, she has serious street cred. She was formerly part of the New Pornographers, most notably on their ridiculously-good Twin Cinema album. This explains why I must have surely been the only person in the theatre that did not know she wasn’t Canadian. Der. She repeatedly told us how nervous she was, which I thought was really sweet, endearing and refreshing. She fidgeted with her dress and her hair incessantly during the show, sort of like a three-year-old during her first ballet recital, and talked about the garbage strike that’s been going on in Toronto for, oh, 27 days now. She said it was the cleanest garbage strike she’d ever seen but, it’s Toronto, so, naturally! Speaking of Toronto, Neko
apparently recorded Middle Cyclone, the record in which she is currently touring in support of, in Toronto and the city obviously holds a special place in her heart. I know this because when she belted out her first song, it was something super duper special. Her voice was always stunning when I’ve heard her play on CBC Radio 3 and on her CD’s, but the power of it live actually gave me the tinglies. It was unbelievably amazing! So strong and big. And she played the hell out of her 13 guitars! I mean, all you have to do is take one listen to it and you’ll be smitten, too. My apologies for the awesome sound quality of this video of People Got a Lotta Nerve. By which I mean, you should thank me for changing your life by providing it.
The concert went for nearly two hours and and Neko played two encores. She seemed to thrive on interacting with the audience, although this may have been fueled by her madeira-swilling self! Actually, Neko is seriously funny. I know this now from first-hand experience, but also because I am an NPR-Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me-nerd where Neko was just featured playing “Not My Job”. She riffed Ken Burns-style about Necco wafers and I laughed so hard that soy sauce almost came out of my nose. Instant classic!
Neko is funny, gorgeous and most impressively, has a voice from somewhere un-human-like. I haven’t seen a concert that fantastic in a long time and I’m thrilled that I got to experience it along with my first Massey Hall sojourn.
In summary? Three words: Neko Case. Brilliant.
Also, did I mention there was no photography allowed? ;-)