The legendary Neko Case graced the Vogue Theatre on the evening of Wednesday, April 15, a night which also played host to a slew of other events around town, yet still filled the theatre. Her performance was accentuated by the Vogue’s great lighting and deep stage. Dark lyrical themes from the Alialujah Choir and Neko Case filled the space in front of a backdrop of green eels seen on the cover of Case’s new album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.
The Alialujah Choir promptly opened the stage with their seven piece outfit. They are said to “lay a bed of choral vocals” during their live sets and this night was no different as they readied the audience for Neko Case.
Though the Alialujah Choir’s name hails from one of the female vocalists, Alia Farah, there was not a lead vocal role throughout their performance. It seemed like a dichotomy, naming the band after one person and having the next word be “choir,” which usually suggests no spotlight on one artist. Alia Farah’s piano acted as a constant beacon of beauty within the sound but the Alialujah Choir’s two acoustic guitars had difficulty with tempo at times. Their vigorous strumming, characteristic of modern folk music, sounded slightly tinny on the acoustic guitars.
A highlight of the Alialujah Choir was their vast use of different instruments with distinct changes in sound and arrangement to accommodate the changes. During “Building A Nation,” a theremin, a unique electronic instrument that interacts with the artists hands and two antennae for volume and pitch, was employed. It was my first time experiencing the instrument, and I was slightly put off by the shrieking, haunting sound overtaking the softer piano. The Alialujah Choir brought along with them a relatively haunting tone. “We raised money to save [The Lone Fir] Cemetery. Which is a weird thing we have to do now,” recalled Adam Shearer to the audience.
Sauntering onto the stage with some fantastic skeleton leggings, Neko Case opened her set with some interesting shock-value acapella lyrics, “Get the fuck away from me!”
Her performance warmed slowly. She crooned three songs before picking up an instrument. Neko’s band was exceptionally talented and utilized many different electrical string instruments for a surprisingly simple sound. The audience, though seated, was with Neko every step of the way, with cheers erupting during each opening chords of well-known favourites. Plenty of emotion swept through the Vogue as Case’s darkly-themed ballads pulled the evening along.
I appreciated how different Neko’s instruments sounded compared to her two supporting rhythm musicians. Her acoustics sounded strong, though four or five instruments would be throwing sound at the same time. Her adoration for Vancouver was apparent, with plenty of characteristic joking between herself and her very talented supporting vocalist, Kelly Hogan, “I haven’t been to Commercial Drive in a while, but every time I do, I think about the ravioli store. I love those ladies who make that ravioli.”
Over the years of being a professional musician, Neko Case’s sound has taken on a rock’n’roll progression and the evening’s performance followed that arc. More instrument switches took place as her impressive performance settled into its second half. Although, I would have preferred to see more prolonged guitar solos since at times her songs sounded exactly the same as her studio recordings and the emotion from the audience gave way with her faster songs.
Neko and her band exited the stage on an energetic note to a standing ovation. After barely two minutes, the audience had her back to the stage. She teased with an acoustic song featuring only her and Kelly Hogan. There was a palpable sigh of relief when the rest of her band came back to perform two more songs and to finish the evening back on a grounded atmosphere of emotion.