Nicole Atkins is nothing if not true to her word. When she was last here in the UK just before Christmas when supporting Mercury Rev on their Deserter’s Songs 20th Anniversary Tour the self-styled American Bonfire Singer was flying solo. But she promised us then that she would be back here in April with her band. And that is exactly what she has gone and done.
The girl with the golden voice from Neptune, New Jersey is here in Newcastle. And she is very happy to be here. Not only has the crowd multiplied some ten-fold since Nicole Atkins last played to “about nine people” here in The Cluny but she also feels a strong affinity to the city courtesy of Geordie Shore. She is quick to point out that the British reality TV show was inspired by its US equivalent Jersey Shore, originally filmed just down the road a piece from her home town in the north eastern American state.
Nicole Atkins’ close association with the locals extends to her entrance tonight as she comes into the room with just her guitar and proceeds to belt out ‘Neptune City’ whilst stood right there in the middle of the crowd. It is as dramatic as it is powerful. By the time she has made it to the stage she has been joined there by her band. Sitting there is Caleb Elliott on cello who earlier had delivered a really quite immense support slot, showcasing material from his new album Forever To Fade. There is also Davey Horne on guitar. And weighing in on their respective bass and drums there is Tom and Mikey too. Together they make for a pretty formidable team.
But with or without a band, Nicole Atkins’ voice remains the absolute focal point of her live shows as she sings the absolute hell out of every single tune that she takes on. This rich, classic instrument is an incredible force of nature whether it is blazing its way through southern soul, doo-wop, funked-up country, and late-70’s punk or delivering pin-dropping performances on melancholy ballads.
Nicole Atkins has it all, and tonight we get it all. From the title track of her 2007 debut album Neptune City (from which there is also a jaw-dropping ‘The Way It Is’), through its follow-up from four years later Mondo Amore (represented here by the country-honk of ‘My Baby Don’t Lie’ and the vivid blues of ‘Cry Cry Cry’) to what many will regard as her breakthrough album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee (‘A Night of Serious Drinking’ tonight evokes strong and most favourable comparisons with vintage Dusty Springfield).
We are also privileged to get a glimpse into Nicole Atkins’ musical future with three songs that are destined for her forthcoming album and one of which ‘Mind Eraser’ (inspired by the film Fear, a psychological thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and in which his character tattoos the words “Nicole 4 Eva” on his chest) is given its first public airing tonight. It, ‘Captain For Once’ and the touring song ‘Never Going Home’ (on which Atkins’ sounds eerily like Bobby Gentry) promise much for the new record.
In keeping with all great live performances, Nicole Atkins and her band keep the very best for last as they tear into Patti Smith’s ‘Pissin’ In A River’ in much the same way that Big Brother and the Holding Company did at the Monterey Pop festival all those years ago when they completely obliterated ‘Ball and Chain’. And then as if to affirm her incredible versatility across the majority of musical genres Nicole Atkins shifts from Janis to Judy in the blink of an eye by returning for a stunning acapella reading of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.
Photos: Simon Godley
Some more photos from this show are HERE