An unofficial video for "Thrice All-American", Neko Case's love song to T-Town and the number she closed with last night.

I hadn't been to the


Homecoming Queen: Case Returns to Tacoma

An unofficial video for "Thrice All-American", Neko Case's love song to T-Town and the number she closed with last night.

I hadn't been to the Pantages Theater since early childhood, so I shouldn't have been surprised that it looked much smaller than I remembered. It's both adorable and elegant, like a petite version of the Paramount. The 1100-capacity room was not sold out entirely, but the crowd was practically vibrating with anticipation (when people only three rows back are whipping out binoculars, you know you have an adoring audience on your hands). The moment Neko and her five-piece band strode out, everyone was, unsurprisingly, instantly on their feet.

It makes sense that an artist as invested in visuals as Case would eventually tour with a professionally designed set, and "surreal woodland" now seems to be her motif of choice. A projection screen behind her was flanked by two faux trees and a looming owl with illuminated eyes. Bed music of crickets chirping was playing upon her entry and the screen was projecting a collective of wiggling, blinking fireflies, which quickly gave way to Chicago artist Kathleen Judge's ever-evolving montage of childlike animation, grey and sepia-saturated vintage film clips and jewel-toned shots of amusement park rides.

Looking lithe and impressively relaxed in a turquoise top and black Converse, Case greeted the audience warmly and claimed she was anything but relaxed: "I'll try not to start bawling and embarrass you," she said, before launching into "Maybe Sparrow" from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.

Much of her set focused on material from her current release, Middle Cyclone. Certainly a logical choice, but one that personally made me antsy to hear songs from her previous two albums (like Sara Brickner, I'm just not as invested in this new record). She did delve in that direction occasionally, pulling out classic favorites like "Deep Red Bells", "I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight" and "Teenage Feeling". Ever the reliable foil, back-up singer Kelly Hogan held her own in both performance and the pair's trademark between-song-comedy routine, riffing on everything from their mutual appreciation for the Frisko Freeze burgers consumed earlier that day to visiting the video location shoot for Steve Miller's "Abracadabra". Case's homecoming anxieties were apparent from time to time, as she apologized for her nerves and twisted her red hair in and out of a knot on her head.

The four-song encore was inevitable, heartwarming, and included her cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth", and with some initial trepidation, an eventually rousing rendition of "Thrice All American", her loving tribute to "that dusky jewel in the south Puget Sound." "I haven't done this song in eight years," she said, before inviting Opal, the tiny daughter of Tacoma music scene fixture Kelly Mickelson out on stage to dance along on for the final number. She did finally give in to the tears at the end, leaving the stage smiling, but shiny-eyed, much like the audience themselves.


Maybe Sparrow

People Got a Lotta Nerve


Hold On, Hold On

The Pharoahs

Middle Cyclone

Deep Red Bells

I Wish I Was the Moon

I'm an Animal

Prison Girls

The Tigers Have Spoken

Margaret vs. Pauline

Red Tide

Don't Forget Me

That Teenage Feeling

This Tornado Loves You


Vengeance Is Sleeping

Lady Pilot

Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

Thrice All American

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