Laura Veirs, who opened the show Monday night at the Byham, said from the stage that their last shows had been outdoors, “so to be able to sing in a room with angels on the ceiling and reverb is a real treat.”
Neko Case would later up the ante, saying, “It’s so nice in here ... It’s too good for us.”
That’s Neko Case being exceedingly modest.
When they talk about people who can sing the phone book — hard copy or online version — Ms. Case is near the top of the list, at least in the pop world.
Actually, pop is far too simple a word for what Ms. Case does. A former drummer, she launched in the late ’90s with a sound deemed “country noir,” best represented Monday by the haunting “Deep Red Bells.”
She had a seamless band that could readily handle that — with pedal steel guitarist/banjo player/everything else extraordinaire Jon Rauhouse, guitarist Eric Bachmann, double and electric bassist Tom Ray, drummer Dan Hunt and backup vocalist Kelly Hogan — along with a variety of her evolving styles and textures, from indie-folk to power-pop.
Her voice is beyond Byham opulent — it’s Heinz Hall opulent to go with her wild flaming red hair, which she threw around as she sang. When she unleashes that siren voice that rides so beautifully above the music, there’s no fear she’ll miss a note. This is a singer who sounds just as strong, or stronger, live than she does in the studio, and what Ms. Hogan supplied was like a beautiful faint echo.
Ms. Case, in black top and skeleton pants, covered the range of her catalog (though skipping her work with New Pornographers), hitting such high points as “This Tornado Loves You” and “If You Knew,” injected with hard Western twang. Her band was one that liked to sneak up on you with short bursts of noise and energy.
The focus was on one of her finest efforts, last year’s “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You,” which provided some of the most lush musical moments (“Wild Creatures,” “Night Still Comes”) as well some of the most driving (“City Swans” and set-closing “Man”).
The crowd was attentive and adoring, and Mr. Case, having spent two days here, including a trip to PNC Park, gave that love back.
“I have a fantasy that all the Rust Belt towns ... will be rejuvenated to look as beautiful as Pittsburgh,” she said.
“Grit and elegance,” Ms. Hogan chimed in, using words that nicely described what took place on the Byham stage.
Ms. Veirs, a Portland, Ore., singer-songwriter-guitarist best known perhaps for her guest vocals with the Decemberists, got gentle backing from drummer Hunt and used loops to embellish her tender, indie-folk sound.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.