Neko Case has built a solo catalog over the past dozen or so years that would easily allow her to tour for years and thrill the fans of her crystal-clear voice, way with lyrical twists and winning stage persona.
It's to her credit that she doesn't just settle into that comfortable greatest-hits mode, though, preferring to infuse her shows with a heavy dose of new music--even just a scant few days since her most recent album--the mouthful named The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You--hit the streets.
That was the case Monday night, when Case and her merry band of regulars closed down the Red Butte Garden summer concert series with a breezy blast of new songs dotted with some long-time faves. Her shock of red locks puffed through the wind into a "Zeppelin '77" hairdo, as case put it, the singer led her troops through a winning 18 or so songs on a night when fall was clearly in the air, the elements competing with one of the best voices in American music.
Case wins in that decision. Despite the winde and mentioning an illness, you couldn't hear anything wrong with Case or her regular vocal counterpart, Kelly Hogan, as they launched into the show with the brilliant "This Tornado Loves You" and the new "Bracing for Sunday" before Case paused for one of her classic between-song one-liners: "This weather is a menopausal woman's dream! Thank you , Utah!"
Case strapped on an acoustic guitar for "Deep Red Bells," and moved easily into the soaring "That Teenage Feeling," a song that serves as a showcase for both Case and Hogan's vocal dexterity. "People Gotta Lotta Nerve" followed, an energetic take on one of Case's best songs, and "Ragtime" and "Maybe Sparrow" were both excellent as well.
Case regular guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse was joined by Crooked Fingers/Archers of Loaf leader Eric Bachmann on guitar and keyboards to help flesh out the new songs, which are more sonically diverse than any of Case's previous efforts. Together, they sounded great pushing the band through songs in the latter half of the show, from "Calling Cards" to "Hold On, Hold On," the raucous new "Man" to encore songs like "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" and "Local Girl."
Closing the show with "I Wish I Was the Moon," Case once again showed that not only is she an excellent songwriter and live performer--she's one of those musicians who warrants lifelong attention. Hearing her explore new themes both musical and lyrical has always been worth the effort, and there's no reason to think that will change in the next 10 or 20 years, given where's she's taken her fans in the past.