(Pictured: Neko Case, Photo: Rick Farrell)
In 2016, Margaret Glaspy quietly released her first full-length album, the near-perfect Emotions and Math, and now in 2019 she’s opening for Neko Case at the Columbus Theatre. With just an electric guitar in tow, Glaspy performed a ten-song set to a humble crowd who had the good sense to show up early. “Pins and Needles,” “Parental Guidance,” “Emotions and Math” and “No Matter Who” began the night. Glaspy’s vocal range is impressive — from snarling to sweet with no warning at all. Lyrically, Glaspy always seems to find herself in the middle of an angsty tug-of-war between light and dark. “I wanna build a house for us to hide in — all I wanna do is fall in love with you,” she sings on a new track while stating, “I’m angry again. I don’t know what to do” on another.
Glaspy indulged the crowd with insight into her formative music education. She shared a bedroom with her sister growing up and as such was introduced to classic artists from her middle school soundtrack: Weezer, No Doubt and Presidents of the United States of America. One artist in particular, however, experienced the heaviest rotation in Glaspy’s bedroom — the incomparable Ms. Lauryn Hill. Glaspy channels all the emotions on a bluesy, disjointed cover of “Ex-Factor,” Ms. Hill’s tragic anthem of the complexities of a toxic relationship — it’s is easily the highlight of her set.
“We’re giving you rock and roll on a weeknight.”
After a short break, Neko Case, backed by six incredible musicians and vocalists, began the second leg of her tour in little Providence, RI. With a career that spans over two decades and several outfits, Case is expert level but approachable. Whether she’s hitting a tambourine or guitar, she looks perfectly at ease with herself and her surroundings. Case spent much of the night bantering with vocalists and musicians Shelly Short and Rachel Flotard, and their humor audibly amused the audience. During frequent dance-like calisthenics between songs to express joy or fend off cold, Case joked with her bandmates that her sequin attire is failing to keep her warm. “Cher must always be freezing.”
Fans were treated to an effortless set of 18+ songs, including many tracks off of Hell-On, Case’s first solo album in five years; “Pitch or Honey,” “Last Lion of Albion” and the 60s-leaning “Bad Luck,” a catchy, deceivingly happy-sounding tune inspired by Case losing her home in a fire. The show-stopper was Case’s achingly tantalizing performance of “Look For Me (I’ll Be Around)” — a boozy, jazzy master class that had us eating out of her palm. A start, stop and restart of “This Tornado Loves You” failed to compromise the set’s momentum, managing only to engage the crowd more deeply as they cheered her on. The patriarchy caught some shade on “Halls of Sarah” two steps before the set was closed with a raucous performance of “Man,” which had Case, Short and Flotard on guitar, daring the buttoned-up crowd out of their seats.
Case opened her encore appraising the nature of God on “Hell-On” and continued with “The Pharaohs,” “That Teenage Feeling,” her cover of Nervous Eaters “Loretta” and ultimately left us, for now, with “Ragtime.” Case called the Columbus the “sweetest, cutest and friendliest.” Right back at you.