The Internet has gone a long way in fetishizing the minutiae of famous people's lives. We're not sure that the world is a better place for knowing that Miranda Lambert bought a bikini and a pistol at the same store (Bass Pro) or that Hayley Williams threw up (she's OK)--but, uh, we know that kind of stuff, thanks to Twitter. So when we sat in front of The Ryman Saturday night waiting for our companion to show up, we felt almost chagrined to see Neko Case walk around the front of her tour bus pulling a rolly-bag like some prole trying to make a flight in time. It didn't help that she was having to ward off a trio of douchetastic autograph hounds.
"You'll just put them on eBay," she deflected, barely giving her pursuers a second look. A member of the event staff hastened the gang's departure, and they skulked off into the night, glossy photo envelopes wagging in the breeze. As thrilled as we were by a close encounter of the Case kind, we hoped that this glimpse of her mortality, albeit brief, would not detract from the show.
It did not.
If anything, the contrast between Case's down-to-earthiness--she kept joking about how tight her dress was, for instance--and the utterly celestial tilt of her voice made the evening that much more magical. It certainly didn't hurt that her band was flawless, or that the visuals--projected onto a screen framed in the upper right by a gigantic owl--were nifty, or that backup singer Kelly Hogan cracked wise at all the right moments.
It was the kind of show where even the songs you don't really care for on the albums sounded great. For us, that would be "Margaret vs. Pauline," from The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, which always struck us as kind of dowdy, but was compellingly rich in this context. Case & Co. paid frequent tribute to both the venue and its staff, seeming to revel in their historic environs.
When Case sang the thrilling last moments of "This Tornado Loves You," we almost got up and left, just because we wanted that to be the last thing we remembered about the show--it was that good--but as the band walked offstage and the please-give-us-more applause just started to reach the level of a good late-summer thunderstorm, Case was already on her way back to the microphone. The rolly bag could wait, and we weren't about to argue with that.