Case/Lang/Veirs Live – Really/Dang/Prime
“The hungry fools who rule the world can’t catch us”
By Neph Basedow,
11:07AM, Thu. Aug. 4, 2016
A sole email and its chain reaction filled the Long Center on Wednesday. Canadian oracle k.d. lang, alt-rock warrior Neko Case, and Oregonian folker Laura Veirs had willed their way to Austin after the latter pair green-lit the “Constant Craving” singer’s long-shot query. Following a two-year recording process, the power trio yielded June’s beaut bow.
The ladies commenced via the eponymous LP’s opener, “Atomic Number.” Standing center stage, lang whispered the song’s first line. An awing three-part harmony then swooped in, supplying room-rattling drama.
“We’re so happy to be in Austin,” exhaled lang afterward. “Hell, I was practically raised here in the Eighties!”
She and Veirs quipped and bantered onstage, Case seemingly happy to be relieved of her solo frontwoman duties, but lang had clearly been ceded the role of bandleader. The Edmonton native appeared particularly upbeat, goofily boogying and dropping wisecracks.
“We’re sister-wives,” joked the 54-year-old LBGTQ icon.
Wall of Sound-era harmonies seeped through the same singer’s languid “Honey and Smoke,” while the Case-dazzled “Delirium” evoked the wistful weight of her key contributions to long-running Vancouver pop collective the New Pornographers. case/lang/veirs highlight “Down I-5” dazzled live, its call-and-response striking and strong.
Backed by a tight quartet, members shared the spotlight, each song hitting their respective strong suits. Loving every second of the hall’s adoration, lang reciprocated as expert entertainer. Veirs’ new Portland neighbor soared and seduced in voice, wielding her microphone in a manner suggesting few other singers truly understand the relation between human projection and electrified amplification. Case’s breathtaking boom – mighty, thunderous – hushed the venue.
Veirs, 42, played guitar during most tunes, while flexing considerable storytelling prowess. Her singsong folk tribute to genre precursor Judee Sill, “Song for Judee,” hopefully set the younger portion of the audience Googling. Likewise, catchy pop cut “Best Kept Secret” sells case/lang/veirs.
Afterward, lang all but erased everything before and after with a rousing cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless,” which forced an impromptu standing ovation.
Midway on, the trio trickled covers of their own songs, each ameliorated by their bandmates’ added vocals. Eerily congruent harmonies ruled the 90-minute set, sounding far superior live. Veirs played the eponymous cut from her 2010 album, July Flame.
“I fell in love with you through this song,” lang praised.
From her 2006 LP Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Case, 45, played “Margaret vs. Pauline” plus heady single “Hold On, Hold On.” Later, the Vermonter turned a mild-mannered show into an all-out rock bash. The onetime punk drummer’s sardonic “Man” erupted in fun frenzy.
Carrying on that festive torch, lang offered a “disclaimer” upon strapping on a banjo.
“You may experience a distinctive, undulating pulling toward the stage. Especially those of the female persuasion,” she smiled. “This banjo’s a bit of a chick magnet!”
Within seconds, rows emptied as fans flooded the stage front. Dancing, strutting, and holding fans’ outstretched hands, lang, in casual all-black attire, proved a delightful ham. Her stunning single, “Constant Craving” – 1992’s Grammy-awarded Best Female Pop Vocal Performance – closed the first encore.
Commencing a second, the women folk-spun Patti Smith’s Dream of Life anthem, “People Have the Power.” Its lyrics rang potent considering the country’s looming election. “It’s decreed the people rule,” sang the trio in unison. Rights advocate lang added, “We have the power to choose love, and not hatred or fear.”
“k.d. for president!” proclaimed a fervent fan.
“But I’m Canadian!!” she returned.
Tender LP cut “I Want to Be Here” closed, subtly echoing Smith’s message: “The hungry fools who rule the world can’t catch us.”
“We’re a one-off project,” admitted Veirs early on. “So it’s wonderful to embrace the moment with these amazing people.”
Exiting, hand-clasped couples and proud loners – several who pulled on newly-purchased lang/case/veirs T-shirts just for their journey home – demonstrated that Austin too relished this exceptional pairing while it lasts.