Neko Case’s Portland performance on March 1 was her first local gig in years, and it was her biggest one to date, trading up from the rock clubs to the Art Deco majesty of the State Theatre. Yet despite the difference in the size of the room, it was also a more intimate performance than in years past. Case achieved this by opting for a reserved-seating setup, darkening the lights, closing the bars in the back of the room, and keeping her band’s drum kit at home. It was not quite an “evening with…” kind of concert, with an acoustic guitar and a stool, but it often felt that way. The audience was held rapt not only because she is an arresting singer with an engaging, easygoing stage presence, but also because the setup forced a degree of attentiveness.

The songs themselves wore the stage arrangement well. Without a drummer — the bassist occasionally supplied a beat by stomping gently on a mic’d up tambourine — many evolved into something more Baroque than their studio recordings would suggest. The lack of drums defanged some of her more uptempo rock songs, such as the subversive “Man” and the windswept “This Tornado Loves You,” but it also added a thick layer of mystery to “Look for Me (I’ll be Around)”, and drew out the peculiar compositional choices stitched inside “Night Still Comes,” and enhanced the Southern Gothic mood of “Maybe Sparrow.”

These arrangements also provided an ideal vehicle for her voice, which contains libraries of emotions and is capable of booming like charging Valkyries or fluttering as delicately as a ribbon on a breeze. Without the rock setting, audiences were forced to consider her lyrics, which skate between mundane details, grandiose themes, and slightly surreal touches in a deceptively plainspoken fashion, calling to mind short-story writers such as Grace Paley and Raymond Carver. A song such as the character study “I’m From Nowhere,” buried among the more-obvious highlights of her 2013 album “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You,” revealed new links between its sparse details in the concert’s context.

Between Case’s solo career and stint in the indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, she has created an unimpeachable legacy. In spite of recently issuing a career-spanning box set, however, she isn’t an artist resting on that legacy – her current work is among her most accomplished and innovative. The concert spanned the entirety of this oeuvre, although the crowd seemed to favor material from The Worse Things Get… and her 2008 album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, slightly more than the rest. She held her audience so effortlessly that she could spectacularly flub the lyrics to “Middle Cyclone” yet still suck the oxygen out of the room when she married her evocative lyrics (“Can’t scrape together quite enough / To ride the bus to the outskirts / Of the fact that I need love”) to a music-box accompaniment. It was an elegant rendering of loneliness that could only play so well in a big, beautiful, and mostly silent space.

Robert Ker is a freelance music writer in Portland.