Neko Case’s mellow concert proves an early summer treat

Teddy Eisenberg, Staff Reporter

“It’s so nice to be back at the Beachland,” said Neko Case, who headlined a sold out show at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern on May 11. On tour in support of her new, lengthy-titled album, “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You,” Case not only sang new material, but gave praise to the Beachland as well:

“You’re so lucky to have this in your town… Cindy and Mark [the venue’s owners] actually give a [expletive] about music.”

The dings of a submarine’s sonar preceded Case and her band’s entry onto the Ballroom stage. Wearing an Electric Light Orchestra t-shirt and spandex pants embellished by a King Tut mask design, Case felt at home for her nearly hour and a half setlist. Including a varied selection of songs that ranged from the banjo-infused “Teenage Feeling” to the heartbreaking cover song “Sleep All Summer,” Case’s pitch-perfect voice dazzled.

Maturing beyond the indie rock sounds of The New Pornographers, Case’s voice has aged gracefully to incorporate the warm, organic qualities of singers like David Crosby and Carole King. The instrumentation of her four-piece band also evolved to embrace odd four string guitars and pedal steel, synthesizing the ensemble’s rich, mellow sound.

More notable than the music, however, was Case and her band’s stage banter with the audience between songs. Each tune’s ending was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers, which backing singer Kelly Hogan said made “the border crossing worth it.”

Nothing was off limits for conversation, in fact, not even ants crawling on the stage. “There are a lot of them up here,” Case said. “Hey guys, let’s have a picnic!”

Unfortunately, there was no room to throw down a blanket on the floor of the packed Ballroom.

Accompanying Case on this stretch of her North American tour was The Dodos, an indie pop band from San Francisco. The trio’s jangly guitars and crooning alto made it sound as if it had spent its entire life digesting only the albums of The Walkmen and Jeff Buckley. The group punctuated its songs with tribal drumbeats and intense tempo changes, keeping its 45-minute set interesting.

When lead singer Meric Long answered his phone mid-song to report that the band had run out of time, however, it was not the last the audience would see of The Dodos. Each member seamlessly reappeared during select songs in Case’s set to sub for an absent bass player, who was under the weather that evening.

Providing laughs and a mellow atmosphere, Neko Case and The Dodos treated the Beachland Ballroom’s sold out crowd to an enjoyable spectacle, ushering in Cleveland’s exciting summer concert season.