Gig review by Music Vice writer Steve Pass
Gig/Concert: Neko Case with Jen Cloher
Venue: Rosemount Hotel, North Perth Western Australia
Date: 17 January, 2010
Headliners: Neko Case
In one word: Sweaty
Melbourne lass Jen Cloher opened proceedings, sans band and accompanied only by an acoustic-guitar playing friend to a strong crowd considering the night’s early start and the days’ awful heat. Her set ended all too soon for some, but the majority in attendance were anxious for the arrival of the red-headed darling of the Americana scene to grace the stage.
A short voiceover message to inform all in attendance that photography of any form was strictly not permitted was a curious indication that the waiting was over, and signaled the arrival of a slightly weathered and tired looking Case, plus full band (perhaps the reason for the photo ban?). Kicking straight into “Things That Scare Me” it was clear early on that one of the standout features of the night’s performance would be the talents of multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse, lending his talents in this song to some amazing clawhammer banjo.
“Maybe Sparrow” from 2006’s acclaimed Fox Confessor Brings the Flood followed, along with “People Got A Lotta Nerve” from current album Middle Cyclone. It was at this point though that things took a turn for the worse at the Rosemount. With a pop and a fizzle the venue suddenly lost all power, leaving Case and band silenced on a very dark stage. A few agonizing minutes of confusion soon subsided when venue staff managed to restore power to the PAs, audio equipment and stage lighting; however the lack of air-conditioning and ventilation soon became tragically apparent to all.
Sweating their way through the rest of the set, with frequent breaks to towel down, spirits were kept surprisingly high by Case’s on-stage banter with backing vocalist Kelly Hogan. The mood was also helped along by a string of Case’s biggest hits, “Hold On, Hold On” and the title track from Middle Cyclone. The voice on this woman is truly jaw-dropping, and even with the evening’s difficulties, the live setting is where it shines brightest.
A few aborted starts later, “Polar Nettles” began charging along, thanks again to Rauhouse’s skills on the strings, reminiscent of bluegrass great Joe Maphis – this time tackling the pedal-steel to glorious effect.
The set was seen out with “Margaret V. Pauline” and a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Keep Your Clothes On” at which point the band retreated outside for a well deserved breather before returning with a promise to ‘get through a couple more songs really quickly, so you can all go outside too!’
The promise was kept with the band making their way through two more songs in intricate precision before granting the sweet relief of fresh air on an exhausted, yet exhilarated crowd.
© Steve Pass