By John Curley
The weather in New York City on Thursday night, February 13th, was quite abysmal. It was cold with pouring rain. That rain was melting the significant snowfall from the night before, which created giant puddles of slush at every intersection. The weather unfortunately reduced the size of the crowd that was present that night at the Bowery Ballroom to see New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins kick off the tour in support of her terrific third album, Slow Phaser. But those that did brave the weather to attend the show were treated to a tour de force performance by Atkins and her band.
Slow Phaser is one of those albums that grows on you. I liked it more with each listen and now consider it to be Atkins’ finest work yet. But listening to the album is one thing. Seeing Atkins perform it live is another experience altogether. Clad in a very colorful kimono and looking like the high priestess of all things cool, Atkins tore through most of the tracks from the new album in a stunning show featuring her powerhouse vocals that left the crowd spellbound.
After opening the show with a great take on “Vultures” from her previous album Mondo Amore, Atkins and her band then went right into the songs from the new album. It was a pretty gutsy move to do a show that consisted mostly of new material. However, the audience was very receptive and appeared to be familiar with the new songs. Atkins’ performance of “Who Killed The Moonlight?,” the first track from the new album, was positively thrilling, with her vocals gaining in power as the disco bass kicked in.
All of the material from the new album sounded great in the live environment, from the dreamy “Cool People” to the bouncy “Girl You Look Amazing” to the stunning “Red Ropes.” Atkins’ performance of “The Worst Hangover” was mesmerizing, particularly as she repeated “I’m dyin’” over and over as the song ground to a conclusion. And she explained that “Sin Song” was about a bottle of tequila, lest anybody be offended by the song’s lyrics. For the last song of the main set, “It’s Only Chemistry,” Atkins brought three backing vocalists onstage to act as the chorus. It was very effective.
Atkins’ performance concluded with a fantastic encore of “The Tower.” The roar from the crowd that greeted it certainly made it clear that everyone there was glad that they had attended the show despite the stormy weather outside. Atkins was onstage for 75 minutes and did a 13-song main set with a one-song encore.
Atkins’ backing band was terrific as well and deserves some mention. The band features keyboardist Dave Sherman, Davey Horne and Dave Rosen on guitars, bassist Zach Westfall, and Sam Bey on drums. Zach Tenorio-Miller, keyboardist with Arc Iris, one of the evening’s support acts, joined Atkins and her band onstage for a few songs. Given the number of Zachs and Daves onstage with her, Atkins joked that the band should be called ZZ Dave. When an audience member shouted “ZZ Top!,” Atkins smiled, fixed that crowd member with a mock glare, and declared, “ZZ Dave, motherf---er!” That drew a lot of laughs and applause from the crowd.
The two support acts for the show were also quite good. First up was the singer Domino Kirke. The daughter of Free and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and the sister of actress Jemima Kirke (one of the stars of the HBO series Girls), Kirke, who was backed by a four-piece band, did a 35-minute set featuring interesting, ethereal rock. Blessed with stunning looks and wearing a long black dress that revealed her tattoo-covered arms, Kirke has considerable stage presence. She’s got a great voice and is a talent worth paying attention to. Her set received a nice reaction from the crowd.
The second act on the bill was Arc Iris, a large band that is fronted by the singer-songwriter Jocie Adams. Arc Iris, whose debut album is being released on April 1st, have a quirky, off-kilter sound that features elements of rock, jazz, country, and blues. I can say without hesitation that they are like no band that I’ve ever seen before and are certainly unique. But their sound works. The audience loved them. In addition to Adams on lead vocals, flute, guitar, and keyboards, Arc Iris features Mike Irwin on trumpet, drummer Ray Belli, Max Johnson on stand-up bass, Nora Fox on flute and vocals, Robin Ryczek on cello, Charlie Rose on pedal steel guitar, banjo, and trombone, and keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Miller. It’s rare to see a musician perform with the enthusiasm that Tenorio-Miller showed at the Bowery Ballroom show. He was like the Keith Moon of the keyboards. Arc Iris were onstage for 45 minutes.
Nicole Atkins’ set list at the Bowery Ballroom on February 13th was as follows:
Who Killed The Moonlight?
Girl You Look Amazing
We Wait Too Long
What Do You Know?
The Way It Is
The Worst Hangover
It’s Only Chemsitry