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Time makes a difference for Neko Case

Wilbur Theatre, Boston, February 3, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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What a difference 14 months makes. Last time Neko Case was at the same venue, she was in a foul mood. She did little talking, was not enthusiastic and made it clear she had issues with the venue.

Seems that Case was having problems because the theatre neglected to put Case's name on the marquee. Indie rock/country diva? Maybe then.

There were no such problems on this night, which drew a near full house after horrific weather the past two days. In fact, the previous two shows for Case's short Northeast tour were bagged due to bad weather.

Case and her strong backing band were up to the task and delivered, playing most of her excellent last CD "Middle Cyclone," which raised Case's profile a few deserved notches, and a chunk of "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood."

Case was in a good mood sure is a whole lot better than the opposite. She is an extremely capable singer, with her voice standing out time and again. She emotes best with spare instrumentation behind her such as the excellent Vengeance Is Sleeping and Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth.

Case has her usual strong backing band with the ever excellent Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel, Paul Rigby on guitar, Tom Ray on upright bass and Barry Mirochnick on drummer. The band wasn't always quite on target, a few tiny snafus here and there. The layoff during a short tour probably affected them. But the fact of the matter is, it didn't affect the overall quality of the show at all.

Case herself mixed it up between acoustic and electric guitars, often aided by longtime sidekick Kelly Hogan on backing vocals.

The sound had somewhat of a country bent during the 70-minute regular set, rocking a bit and often mid-tempo. But the four-song encore, including Star Witness and John Saw That Number shifted far more sharply to Case's country days and sounded particularly good.

North Carolina band Lost in the Trees opened with an engaging set that included a three-piece string section, tuba, electric guitar, drums and vocals. Theirs is not an easy sound to describe. Sometimes they tried a bit too hard to be cacophonous, but when they weren't - which was most of the time - the sound proved engaging.

Case's giant size photo and name was on the colorful marquee outside the theatre after the show as well. She deserved it.