After a go-see-her blurb in the New York Times (but no review? WTF, guys), it was no surprise to me see the Bowery Ballroom totally packed for this sold-out 11 PM Place To Be Seen Show*. But it sure seemed like a surprise to the star performer. "There's a question we've been asking ourselves all week," she said as she came out. "Who are you guys?" Nicole honey? We're you're new fans.
The reason I was there was because my friend Kathleen saw her open for Chris Isaak at the Beacon this summer and has been following her across small concert halls ever since. "Wait till you hear her," she said. "The CD doesn't do her justice." And it doesn't. Her voice is muted on the disc, but live? She has a voice like cream on a steak knife.
She did a song called "The Way It Is" that was just. Jaw-droppingly. Gorgeous. The CD version doesn't do it justice, but the video below from Letterman last October will give you an idea of what it sounded like Friday night:
Gives you shivers, doesn't it?
How was the show? I'm guessing a lot of people came to see a Local Girl Makes Good Show (Atkins hails from Asbury Park) and were more than pleasantly surprised to realize it was a Local Girl Kicks Ass Show. I know I was. It opened with the theme to Twin Peaks (I'm guessing Ms A is a Julee Cruise fan); was filled with a choice mix of upbeat and gloom 'n' doom, a Doors cover (don't quote me on this but I think it was The Crystal Ship), another cover of a Sixties song that I know I know but can't remember (don't you just hate that?); and ended with a rousing, let's-bring-on-everyone-from-the-opening-acts encore of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain (I'm guessing Ms. A is also a Stevie Nicks fan). And that's probably a good description of her voice: two parts Stevie Nicks, two parts Julee Cruise, and one part Jim Morrison, all mixed together with a shot of Wild Turkey for that raspy Janis Joplin edge.
Bottom line, I learned three things: (1) Trust Kathleen's taste in music -- it's like the Federal Reserve without the condescension. (2) Asbury Park is to music what Xavier's School is to mutants. And (3) When Nicole Atkins records a live album, she'll conquer the world the way she conquered the Bowery.
*Of course, it wouldn't be a Place To Be Seen Show without the bearded poser behind us telling his poor girlfriend how stupid her taste in music is. And talking during every song. Kathleen gave him the hairy eyeball, the guy beside her gave him the hairy eyeball, and he still kept talking. Kathleen asked him nicely to be quiet, and he still kept talking. Finally the guy next to her told him to STFU and the poser stopped talking only long enough to lean forward and yell "BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!" into Kathleen's right ear. By the end of the evening, girlfriend had dumped poser boy and moved closer to the stage. Poser boy is probably online right now telling all his Facebook friends how Nicole Atkins shows are full of losers. And you know what? He can file me under L with the rest of them.