Neko Case’s tour de force

When Neko Case last graced the ACL stage, she was still the reigning queen of Americana, a minimalist-minded singer and songwriter in thrall to torch songs and classic country. Over the succeeding decade, however, she’s developed into an eclectic, ambitious artist who won’t be hemmed in by genre restrictions, as her latest LP The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You attests. With that acclaimed work in hand, Case and her band gave us a well-rounded, wide-ranging performance.

Opening with “Where Did I Leave That Fire,” an atmospheric slice of art pop, Case followed directly with “This Tornado Loves You,” one of her most accessible and eccentric tunes. Case and her versatile band, including returning stalwarts Jon Rauhouse, Tom Ray and Kelly Hogan, moved from ringing folk rockers like “City Swans,” “Hold On, Hold On” and “People Gotta Lotta Nerve” to classic balladry like “Night Still Comes,” “Lion’s Jaw” and the particularly gorgeous “Calling Card.” She has a singular affinity for 6/8 time, adding subtle 50s-style melodies to songs like “That Teenage Feeling,” “Wild Creatures” and “The Pharaohs,” and added some funny power pop with the snarky “Man.” Case didn’t forget her roots, however, reaching far back to her earlier work for the countrified gem “Set Out Running,” which exploits the Patsy Cline side of her voice, and the classic beauty “I Wish I Was the Moon.” Despite it being a cover, Case was at her most emotionally vulnerable on Harry Nilsson’s understated ballad “Don’t Forget Me.”

It was an eclectic, brilliant performance that perfectly encapsulated where Neko Case finds her artistry circa 2013. We can’t wait for you to see it early next year – watch this space for broadcast details.