By John Curley
Nicole Atkins will be releasing her fourth album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, in 2017. But tracks from the album received their live debut at her fantastic show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on Tuesday, October 25th.
Atkins was backed at the show by WOLF!, a three-piece, Brooklyn-based outfit that also served as the opening act. WOLF! are comprised of guitarist Scott Metzger, Jon Shaw on bass, and drummer Taylor Floreth. Their 45-minute opening set of instrumental blues/rock received a great response from the crowd, and it had several audience members dancing throughout their set.
After the interval, Atkins began her set solo and acoustic, standing in the middle of the crowd. The audience had given her a wide berth, and Atkins, always an engaging performer, urged everyone to move closer and to sing along. She then sang a stirring version of her signature song “Neptune City” that set the tone for what would be a phenomenal set.
When Atkins went onto the stage to join WOLF!, who were augmented by Matt Wade on keyboards as well as saxophonist Dennis Daley and trumpet player Eric Tait, one could sense that something special was about to take place. And it did, as the crowd was treated to the new track "A Little Crazy,"which is the first release from the new album. Atkins made very effective use of the Sennheiser MD411 effects microphone during the performance of the song.
The performance of the next song, “Maybe Tonight,” was positively jaw dropping. Given Atkins’ soaring vocals and WOLF!’s trebly backing, it sounded like a dream collaboration between Dusty Springfield and Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
The trippy new song, “Darkness Falls,” made good use of the horn section and received a nice hand from the crowd. That was followed by “Sleepwalking,” another new track that is quite a good pop song. It flows free and easy. Atkins provided strong vocals and danced a bit onstage during the guitar break. “Cry Cry Cry” featured great vocals by Atkins and terrific guitar work by Metzger.
Before performing “I Love Living Here Even When I Don’t,” Atkins, who has left her native New Jersey for Nashville, spoke to the crowd about how much she enjoyed being back in her home region and the familiarity of it. That was followed by the new tracks “Listen Up” and “Brokedown Luck.” The latter is a sassy song highlighted by Atkins’ powerhouse vocals.
“Goodnight Rhonda Lee,” the title track to the new album, featured nice keyboards by Wade and guitar by Metzger as well as sweet-sounding vocals from Atkins. It received a nice hand from the crowd. The outstanding song, “A Serious Night Of Drinking,” featured Atkins’ soulful vocals and a great saxophone solo by Daley. Atkins also made good use of the effects microphone during the song. “If I Could” featured Atkins’ earnest vocals as well as haunting, dreamlike vocals at toward the end through the effects microphone.
A rousing version of the crowd favorite “Brooklyn’s On Fire” featured fantastic guitar and keyboards as well as soaring, shimmering vocals from Atkins. Atkins had some members of the crowd singing backing vocals into her microphone for part of the song. Atkins took the crowd to an even higher place with an outstanding version of “The Way It Is” that featured her powerhouse vocals and great use of the effects microphone. Atkins and the band brought the house down with an incredibly powerful performance of “Love Surreal” that had the crowd roaring.
After the band left the stage, Atkins ended the show the same way that she began it: solo, acoustic, and in the middle of the crowd. She performed a really beautiful cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” Atkins urged the crowd to sing along. Although apprehensive at first, the audience did join in and were singing with great volume by the end of the song. Atkins received a huge round of applause when the song concluded.
Atkins is an artist at the peak of her powers at the moment, and is a must-see in concert. Her tour dates can be found at http://www.nicoleatkins.com/tour/.
Nicole Atkins’ set list at Le Poisson Rouge was as follows:
Neptune City (solo and acoustic)
A Little Crazy
Cry Cry Cry
I Love Living Here Even When I Don’t
Goodnight Rhonda Lee
A Serious Night Of Drinking
If I Could
Brooklyn’s On Fire
The Way It Is
Crying (cover of Roy Orbison song, solo and acoustic)
“A Little Crazy,” the first single from Nicole Atkins’ forthcoming Goodnight Rhonda Lee album, can be heard below: