Neko Case Throws a Birthday Bash at Brooklyn Steel

Neko Case Throws a Birthday Bash at Brooklyn Steel

September 09, 2022

Neko Case – Brooklyn Steel – September 8, 2022

Thursday was the first day of school for New York City kids, so the energy in town had shifted, moving into that refreshing purgatory between summer and fall. No better to help celebrate the occasion than Neko Case, who delighted the Brooklyn Steel audience with a career-retrospective set list, music that sits comfortably on the sunshine-meets-gloom boundary. Backed by a band that was majority drawn from the New Pornographers, and with static lighting that could be described as pumpkin spice, Case opened the show with “I Wish I Was the Moon,” off her 2002 breakthrough, Blacklisted, still sounding very much brand-new 20 years later, her salted-caramel voice reverberating in the big room. The lyric “Thought that I was young / Now I’ve freezing hands and bloodless veins” in the opening song maybe hit a little bit different for Case on Thursday as it was her 52nd birthday, which became a running theme of the night. The singer-songwriter made it clear that she’s feeling fantastic and, on songs older and newer, made a strong argument that she’s as good as ever.

Case put out what could be described as a greatest-hits release earlier this year, and the set was dominated by crowd-pleasers from the past two decades, nearly every song making someone in the room’s night. “This Tornado Loves You,” off 2008’s Middle Cyclone, featured nifty echo harmonies, and “I’m An Animal” leaned on a three-guitar-led folk-rock-swing. When Case announced it was her birthday, declaring that she’s feeling like herself and “kind of dangerous,” the crowd spontaneously sang “Happy Birthday.” This kicked off perhaps the strongest, most autumnal stretch of the night that included the dark, dead-leaf-crunch groove of “Last Lion of Albion,” “Deep Red Bells,” which matched a voice to a song as perfectly as you’ll find, and “Margaret vs. Pauline,” with a restart after Case botched the beginning, but, once the band kicked in, had the coziness of a warm sweater on the first cold day of the season.

Case confessed she’d never been so “self-indulgently birthday” before, but it perfectly fit the mood of the show, with the last parts of the set highlighting the very first song she wrote and the first song she wrote with her longtime guitarist Paul Rigby, “Maybe Sparrow.” The encore featured more well-loved songs from her catalog — the evocative “Halls of Sarah” and, finally, “Star Witness” — as well as a cupcake and a candle and another singing of “Happy Birthday.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Neko Case plays Union Transfer in Philadelphia on Saturday.)

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