A good concert is all about atmosphere: the crowd, the band, the sound, and the way those elements fit together. Good concerts are rare.
But the best concerts live in the realm of surprise. They simultaneously sound familiar and entirely new, and they create moments that will carry on in your memory for years — surprising you when they reemerge while you sing in the shower or hear an old record or have a conversation with a close friend.
Neko Case’s sold-out show at the Beachland last night was more than good. She was pitch perfect (as always), but the beauty of what she did onstage runs deeper than that.
You can’t help but feel that every time Case plays the Beachland, it’s a bit of a homecoming for her. She’s neither from nor has she ever lived in Cleveland, but something about her sound — the way it changes from big and echoing to quiet and hollow and still — fits so perfectly in that open, yet intimate, space.
She has a voice capable of filling almost any room, and she uses it all, its full range, not only of pitches but volumes and tones. She loves Cleveland, and the crowd last night loved her right back.
What’s great about seeing Neko Case live is the incredible personality she brings to her shows. She has flaming red hair and a wit that cuts like a B-string. Her presence onstage is magnetic, and her chemistry with the band, particularly with backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, makes everyone in the crowd feel like they’re being let in on an intimate, inside joke.
From the first notes of “That Teenage Feeling” through the four-song encore, Case took us on a sort of best-of expedition through (mostly) her last two records, but she also treated the crowd to four new songs.
“Hold On, Hold On” and “The Pharaohs,” received shouts and mid-song claps, and there was a “special, Cleveland edition” of “Magpie to the Morning.” She entranced us with “Star Witness,” and shook us alert with “This Tornado Loves You.”
The clear highlight, though, was the third song of the encore. When Case and Hogan joked that the disco ball should be turned on, the Beachland kindly obliged, but there was no light to point at it. Someone handed Case a flashlight and she held it on the disco ball throughout “I Wish I Was the Moon.”
The room stood doused in that dull, lunar light in a moment we could never have expected — not even hoped for. In the end, Case gave us just under two, intimate hours of near- flawlessness — a night full of perfect surprises. —Lydia Munnell