A mural of swords, axes, and eels pointed towards the words, “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.”
It was the title of Neko Case’s last album, and also the backdrop for her show last Friday night, Live at the Inlet.
Sporting flaming red hair volumized with the humidity of the night, Case headlined the venue’s first night hosting music for the Northside Festival with her alt-country, punk-rock ballads.
Case started as a drummer in punk rock bands. Punk’s anthem power and message-driven lyrics drive through all her work. But even while making a compelling statement, she aims to not take herself too seriously. Her first words on stage last night were, “Hello you adorable people.”
For example, she said about her red/pink leopard print leggings, “I made these pants on my sewing machine. I have a fucking amazing camel toe right now. I feel like Grace Jones in these and that’s all that fucking matters. A camel toe with a giant emerald on it, that’s what Grace Jones would do.” She also had a few back-pocket stories about her back-up vocalist Kelly Hogan and her tech assistant, Jeff.
When she introduced her bandmate Hogan, she added sotto voce, “. . . finally wrestled her away from the fucking Decemberists.” The audience indicated its approval of Hogan’s promotion beyond backup singer. “Our flag has been retaken from the Decemberists,” Case confirmed.
She mentioned her drummer Dan Hunt was “gonna be a mommy any second, he looks beautiful and radiant,” and described Tom V. Ray (bass) as “from Vincennes” in reference to Vincennes, Indiana where Ray grew up.
Case received cheers for Nothing to Remember, a song she wrote originally for 2012’s The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond. Over a pulsing beat, she powerfully sang the verse, “You told me something that scared me to death / Don’t take me home / I can’t face that yet / I’m ashamed that I’m barely human / And I’m ashamed that I don’t have a heart you can break / I’m just action / And other times reaction.”
She also played I Wish I Was the Moon, Hex, The Tigers Have Spoken, At Last (Case: “I like short songs cause they’re punk”), John Saw That Number, The Pharaohs, Ragtime, Night Still Comes, and Man.