By John Curley
When Nicole Atkins took the stage at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia inside Symphony Space on New York City’s Upper West Side on Thursday, December 8th, she remarked that it was one of the oddest shows she’d ever been booked to play. For starters, the crowd was an eclectic mix of Symphony Space subscribers and Atkins’ hardcore fans. In addition, the concert was sponsored by a wine company (which gave out free samples to the audience), and two guys from the wine company gave a rather long-winded introduction before Atkins took the stage. The wine guys reappeared onstage about two-thirds of the way through Atkins’ set to participate in a bizarre Q&A with Atkins. The questions asked were ridiculous, so Atkins responded with answers that mocked the questions. It appeared that she was trying hard not to laugh when answering the questions. After about three questions, the wine guys surrendered the stage once again to Atkins and her band.
The weirdness of the onstage Q&A aside, Atkins gave the audience a great night of music. Looking stunning clad in a floor-length black dress, Atkins was backed by a very talented band. Atkins’ longtime sideman Dan Chen was on piano. The backing band also included a two-piece string section featuring a violinist and a cellist, a drummer, a bassist, and three backup singers.
It was quite a treat to get to see a singer of Atkins’ stature perform in such an intimate venue as Symphony Space. The 33-year-old Neptune, New Jersey native showed once again why she has been a critical darling for several years. Her powerhouse vocals were featured throughout the night on songs such as “Maybe Tonight,” “The Way It Is,” “War Torn,” “The Tower,” and an excellent cover of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms.” One new song—titled “Feels Like Dying”—was performed in the show.
Atkins’ fans in the audience were not shy about shouting things to her during the show, and Atkins would usually respond to them from the stage. Atkins’ parents were in attendance, and her father made her laugh when he shouted a song request to her. Atkins also told a humorous story about an onstage mishap in the past.
Atkins is a phenomenal talent—an excellent songwriter as well as a fantastic singer. She’s been compared favorably to Roy Orbison. It’s baffling as to why she isn’t a bigger name in the industry.
Atkins and her band were onstage for about 70 minutes (including the ill-conceived Q&A). She performed an 11-song main set and a two-song encore. The concert began at 7:45 and, in a rarity for a New York City rock concert, it was over before 9 p.m.
The set list was follows:
The Way It Is
War Is Hell
Into My Arms (Nick Cave cover)
You Come To Me
Feels Like Dying