The Paramount Theatre crowd was rowdy and Neko Case was in a playful, somewhat vulgar mood Wednesday night despite battling a head cold.
“We are going to play a lot of f—ing songs,” she announced with a laugh about a third of the way through her 21-song set as she took a glance down at the set list.
Not only did Case play plenty of songs off her new album “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You,” she also touched on old favorites that got the crowd cheering their approval.
Case, dressed in a black cocktail dress and “Goodwill high heels,” got things started with two cuts off her new album, “Where Did I Leave The Fire” and “Bracing For Sunday.” She immediately dipped back to 2007′s “Fox Confessor Brings The Flood” for “Lion’s Jaw” and the propulsive “That Teenage Feeling,” which got a nice, increased pep from the album version, even if it didn’t quite rock.
In fact, not much of Case’s music rocked that hard at all, which was probably just fine by the decidedly older crowd on hand. The live instrumentation did a nice job of highlighting her voice, which is one of the nicest and most distinctive in the business, though at times it did get a little muddled from where I was sitting underneath the balcony.
“City Swan,” off “The Worse Things Get,” was another near-rocker that captured a lot of what makes Case so irresistible. On Wednesday, the song sounded like a subdued New Pornographers outtake with Case infusing her unique inflection as she sang, “I swear under my breath/Because I’m starving in your gravity/You’re made from something different than I know.”
Playing a show in Seattle is somewhat of an annual homecoming for Case, who grew up in Tacoma. Despite the fact she’s played numerous shows around town, she admitted that it was “f—ing intimidating” to play the Paramount, the same theater she grew up seeing her favorite bands play at.
If that or her stuffy nose was bothering her, she didn’t let on and finished with a four-song encore that included a haunting version of the a cappella song “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” and “Red Tide,” which closed her show. She also made sure to thank Seattle band Pickwick for opening for her on several dates. Pickwick’s last night on tour with Case was Wednesday and the sextet will now make their way through the East Coast and Midwest with Black Joe Lewis.
As for Case, she’s not quite done with her tour and will hit Radio City Music Hall in New York City and Austin City Limits before wrapping things up at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston on Nov. 1. Few artists get to play all three of those spots when on tour, but for a woman at the height of her powers riding a critically acclaimed album, it seems just right.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails