Singer-songwriter Neko Case is known as much for her work with The New Pornographers as she is for her seven solo albums, and today enchanted a packed house at World Cafe Live upstairs for the Free at Noon concert. Backed by a six-piece band, Neko wielded a Fender Jaguar, her coppery hair veiling her face. “Easy with the cameras…If you film me I’ll forget the words,” she warned. Beyond the firm request for no cameras, the she kept the stage banter to a minimum, moving fluidly through the set.
The band opened with “Man,” a tambourine-heavy song with country vibes that sneers with attitude, the perfect pick to get the crowd stomping. “Hell-On,” the title track of Neko’s latest album, is eerie and echoing. The lyrics weave a mystical setting as if plucked from the pages of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. “Halls of Sarah” is a wistful call in the dark, with wispy, layered vocals. “She didn’t ask to be your remake or your muse / We’re parasites inside her blues,” Neko sang, her voice toying with language, twisting vowels, sweet but never fragile. The set picked up speed toward the end, “Last Lion of Albion” the seam-splitting finale with heavy drum rolls and clanging cowbell.