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Smaller makes no difference for Case

House of Blues, Boston, March 2, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Neko Case's show originally was supposed to be at the larger Orpheum Theatre. With ticket sales presumably down, Case didn't come very close to filling the venue, but that did not mean that her extensive body of music was any worse for it.

Case plugged music from her entire solo career (she's also been a member of The New Pornographers, among other bands), which was the object of a humongous eight-solo album (six studio and two live albums) vinyl box set, "Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule," which came out in November 2015.

Case played a good six songs from "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" and a chunk from "Blacklisted," "Middle Cyclone" and others.

More importantly, Case played a swath of high quality material ranging from "Hold On, Hold On," "Vengeance Is Sleeping" and the closing song of the set, "Maybe Sparrow."

Case's voice has always been a thing of beauty. It soars and breathes emotion into the material (often of the mid-tempo variety, perhaps a bit too much so on this night). Case's voice created that backbone while holding syllables and notes to good effect. This never a case of Case over-emoting and stretching out words simply to show her vocal dexterity. She provided first hand evidence of what being a good vocalist was all about.

Case was most ably backed by a veteran band with band leader Tom V. Ray and his very long white beard on bass (often upright), Jon Rauhouse on steel guitar and guitar, and Paul Rigby on guitars. Rigby also traded vocals on the encore song, "Sleep All Summer," a welcome change of pace.

These veterans knew what they were doing with Rauhouse particularly satisfying on pedal steel, filling the songs with a moody, expressive sound. While Case and band were able to convey that quality in the stand-up sitting of the House of Blues, one suspects that it would have worked even better at its original locale, a sit-down theatre.

It also helped to have someone of Case's vocal skills.

As a front woman, Case engaged the audience enough, a role she has heretofore not particularly embraced. In fact, in previous shows, side woman and backing vocalist Kelly Hogan has filled that role, but Hogan was not on the tour.

Case also would not be accused of being a natural born leader or raconteur, leaving her singing as her strong suit.

That, of course, was not such a bad thing because with a gorgeous voice like Case's, that's enough to carry a show - even in a smaller setting.

The Felice Brothers opened up with an engaging set mixing roots, New Orleans sort of sounds and more with fiddle player Greg Farley and accordionist James Felice clearly leading the charge. Lead singer Ian Felice would not be accused of being overly dynamic when it came to stage presence, but the overall effect was the Felice Brothers were a good table setter for Case.