Neko, Pink Martini, Decemberists Concerts: Not in Corvallis, But Near in Oregon
Dan promised we could trade concerts for friends with this move half-a-world away, which happens to have quite a nice music scene. Well, he managed to get at least get to one out of the three of them with me. We saw The Decemberists in Eugene, and though they put on the most visually and technically involved show, the performance was the least memorable of the three. Still, Shara Worden was especially sultry and potent on “The Wanting Comes in Waves,” thunderously bellowing out the “This is how I am repaid” chorus.
But the best of the three concerts was the one with the least pretense and artifice: Neko Case last night, again in Eugene at the McDonald Theater. She was so honest and real, no make-up, almost too-tight jeans, unkempt orange hair she kept fidgeting with, tucking into a bun and behind her ears. At her concerts, she bans photography and truly seems uncomfortable on-stage, her fears somehow assuaged by a more powerful urge to perform and assert her story. Her timidity is part of her charm, making those hard-wrought songs more poignant. This isn’t easy for her but she’s here. She forces herself to get up there for you. Back-up singer Kelly Hogan (ATL native, Elaine) is a spunky extrovert who really defuses the tension for Neko. She’s almost like her ventriloquist speaking for her, freeing Neko up to do what she does best. “Middle Cyclone,” the title song from her new album, most resonated with me last night. Whimsical, anime-like, hand-drawn movies also accompanied each song, amplifying their effects.
And the Pink Martini show with the Portland Symphony last week was spectacular, but now I’m concerted-out. Part of it is just having to drive an hour-plus each way to see these shows. We don’t get too many big acts in Corvallis.
With their big band, cabaret-style songs in Spanish, French, even Turkish, Pink Martini’s music resonates with people of all ages and cultures. Their first big hit, “Sympatique,” topped the charts in France. It’s so authentic-sounding my mom could have sworn it was an Edith Piaf song when I sang the “Je ne veux pas travailler” lyrics to her. Pianist Thomas Lauderdale is quite the overwrought showman. He and lead singer China Forbes met as undergraduates at Harvard, bonding over late night opera sessions in the practice studios. My actress sister and her friends were that way in college there. The most memorable part of the night was when China Forbes and conductor Carlos Karlmar traded places, she conducting the orchestra and him launching into a German aria.
Now we’ll take a concert break until September, when I got tickets for Pittsburgh’s finest laptronica dj Girl Talk. We’ve always wanted to see that tiny dancer live.
If we only had a wider range of indie rock stations in this land where bluegrass and folk music rule. We’ll have to content ourselves with OPB Music and KBOO for now.