Neko Case is apparently a hot ticket among scalpers these days. After I put up a craigslist ad in search of a pair of tickets to the show at Variety Playhouse, some friendly ticket brokers emailed (under the guise of normal people) to direct me to eBay, where tickets could be had starting at prices three times the face value. Eventually, I finagled my way into some seats, bought direct from the Variety box office. This is a good thing, because if I'd payed $95 to see this show, I probably would have been pissed.
As it happened, $25 was a pretty fair ticket price. I had seen Neko twice before, but always in the context of The New Pornographers. Her last solo release before this newest one, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," has been on steady rotation in my stereo and on my iPod (great party background music, great roadtrip singalong, etc.) for the past two years, and so far I've really enjoyed the bulk of "Middle Cyclone," so I expected good things. Good I got, just not anything great, or even particularly memorable.
On the one hand, it was nice to be at a show that was so lo-fi and laid-back. We stood on the floor in front of the stage and it felt quite intimate, as if we were at a '90s coffeehouse open mic gig, even though the venue holds a couple thousand people. On the other hand, this was only the second show out of the gate for Neko and her band, so they were definitely still working out some kinks.
The songs came off pretty much as they do on the recording. The only bonuses of the live-and-in-person version were some stage patter between songs (unfortunately dominated by Neko's talkative backup singer, who apparently had some ATL ties), some cool videos projected on the scrim, and getting to see Neko strum a guitar with the volume turned all the way down. Neko's foghorn of a voice was in excellent form, though -- the most exciting point of the concert came during "This tornado loves you," when she howled, "what will make you believe me?"
The next day, I put on "Middle Cyclone" in my car and enjoyed it just about as much as I had the live version the night before. It was a good show, but it wasn't great -- and it definitely wasn't a must-see. I love me some Neko Case, but if I'm gonna see her live in the future, she had better have the rest of the New Pornographers gang in tow.