News Column

Neko Case's force-of-nature songwriting makes landfall at the Paramount this weekend

October 25, 2013


Oct. 25--Dreams have inspired some of the biggest hit songs ever recorded.

When Paul McCartney woke up with the music to "Yesterday" in his head, he was certain he had heard it somewhere before. He actually played it for a number of music industry people to ensure it had never been recorded elsewhere.

Billy Joel claims "River of Dreams" came to him while he was sleeping, and Jimi Hendrix credits a dream for giving him his smash hit "Purple Haze."

Neko Case says her song "This Tornado Loves You" came from a dream where a tornado asks her to read it a book, because it couldn't hold one itself.

Chances are very good that Case will perform this song Sunday evening during her concert at the Paramount Theater. Starr Hill is presenting the concert, which includes a performance by Karen Elson.

Elson is a British model, as well as guitarist and singer-songwriter. She is a founding member of the New York City cabaret troupe The Citizens Band.

Case made a name for herself as the moving force behind Neko Case and Her Boyfriends, as well as the Canadian indie-rock group the New Pornographers. Her popularity is such that her name alone now fills large venues such as the Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina, where she will be performing just prior to her Paramount gig.

The Alexandria-born singer opened her 2009 album, "Middle Cyclone," with her tornado song. That release topped the indie-music chart in the U.S., as has her new album, "The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You."

Although Case has said she never intended the tornado to be seen as a metaphor for her life or musical career, a number of reviews have connected the dots. For example, it has been pointed out that her zig-zagging career course has caused her to make her home at different times in the South, West, Canada and, most recently, Tucson, Ariz.

The fact that Case can blow audiences away with her soulful, heartfelt vocals and poignant lyrics can enlist yet another analogy. But for her, the song was simply about exploring what it might be like to be "pursued by a force of nature."

"Of course, I'm fine if people want to interpret it that way," Case has been quoted as saying about the tornado-as-metaphor idea. "But for me, the song is very literal."

Like a tornado, Case has gone her own way throughout her musical career. The genres she's most noted for are indie rock, alternative country, folk-rock and Americana.

"I hope I can comfort people a bit -- maybe show people that making music is fun and accessible to them as well," Case is quoted as saying. "I'm not out to become Faith Hill, I never want to play an arena, and I never want to be on the MTV Video Music Awards, much less make a video with me in it.

"I would like to reach a larger audience and see the state of music change in favor of musicians and music fans in my lifetime. I care very much about that."

Case also cares a great deal about animals. She addresses this in songs such as "People Got a Lotta Nerve," and, "I'm an Animal."

"I feel like one of the real tragedies is that, as a species, human beings are constantly trying to deny or sublimate our natural instincts," Case said in a press release. "And I've made a conscious effort not to do that, but to trust myself, both in my life and in my work.

"Things like animals and nature, they're located in the tender receptor of my brain. And I'm just now trying to come to terms with the notion of loving people as much as I love those other things -- because I grew up in a way that made me love the one, but not the other.

"So, I guess, I've been working that out for myself, and these songs are my way of reconciling those feelings."

Neko Case will perform in concert at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Paramount Theater on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Karen Elson also will perform. Tickets are $40.


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