Neko Case in Tacoma: OK Show, Better Venue

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Neko Case played near-perfect interperitations of songs from her new album, Middle Cyclone, at Tacoma's Pantages Theater on Tuesday, June 2.
I know Hannah's gonna chime in soon with a proper review, but I just want to drop a few notes on Neko Case's show in Tacoma last night:

Her Set: Marginal: Good tunes, to be sure. But, I quickly grew tired of watching five stellar musicians stand still and perform a carbon copy of their catalog. Instead of using her recordings as a jumping off point -- and perhaps a chance to let pedal steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse let loose a little -- Case's intent of the evening appeared to perform as true of interpretation of her songs as possible. That's unfortunate, because I can experience the same thing at my desk or in my car. This obviously wasn't a problem for the adoring hometown crowd who appeared content to swap one-liners with Case and singer Kelly Hogan about Frisko Freeze. But, doesn't it say something about a show when the most unpredictable moments of the evening came during guitar tunings?

The Venue: Killer: The Pantages Theater is wonderful. It's like a smaller, more ornate Moore. And it's full of charm. Upon entering the theater, a darling gray-hared volunteer -- acting more as grandmother of the evening than security or usher -- informed us that someone would "nab" us if we used our cameras or cell phones. And 10 minutes before Joey Burns and John Convertino from Calexico opened the show, an usher wandered through the lobby playing a set of bells, informing the crowd that it was 10 minutes to show time. It felt more like a night at the theater than a rock show. I'd love to see another show there.

Tacoma/Out-of-Seattle Venues: I love it. Last night's show reminded me a lot of Death Cab's pseudo homecoming show in Bremerton last year, except with a much older crowd. ("That doesn't surprise me. I bet my dad would like Neko Case if he wasn't so busy listening to Sade," I heard the guy behind me say.) I know Seattle's infinitely more bankable than Tacoma and certainly Bremerton, and the above mentioned uncharacteristic shows were both homecomings with relatively little risk involved. But, instead of selling several nights at the Moore, Paramount, or Showbox, I'd love to see more exploring of the region's venues. We'll get to discover more gems like we all did last night, and I think promoters and bookers will find that the cities a train or ferry-ride away from town are full of rock fans thirsty for a show -- any show! -- they can get to without that hour-plus trip home.

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