Monday, December 5th, 2011
Nicole Atkins at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangA little into her show at The Drake Underground on Saturday evening, Nicole Atkins mentioned that this was her first-ever solo show in Canada, and that performances of this format were usually reserved for more casual one-off performances back home in New Jersey during the holidays. Indeed, though Ms Atkins has been no stranger to Toronto stages since releasing her debut Neptune City back in 2007, she’s always been accompanied by some iteration of her band The (Black) Sea. I’d have to go back to SXSW 2007 to recall the last time I saw her in a stripped-down acoustic format (also the very first time overall), and even then she was backed by a hastily-recruited drummer and second guitarist because The Sea had gotten lost en route.
The call for backing players is a reasonable one as both her records – Neptune City and this year’s Mondo Amore – are pretty produced affairs, but it’s key to remember at her core Atkins is a folk/blues-rooted singer-songwriter and has had more than her share of experience performing with just her guitar, voice and songs. That’s all she brought with her on this evening and it was more than enough. Well, those and some hilarious anecdotes; for serious, the evening could have just been her sitting there – no guitar – and telling stories and it would have been worth the price of admission. But yes, she sang too.
Brassy set opener “Maybe Tonight” set the tone for the night, which is to say it wouldn’t be a quiet, navel-gazey affair. She promised that the set would mostly be country versions of her songs – and indeed, “Cry Cry Cry” was extra honky-tonky-ish – but most songs retained their basic stylistic personalities and there were a fair number of what she called the “sad bastard” songs, but even those were delivered with energy and conviction thanks to her room-filling voice. The set was all over the place as far as where it drew from, covering both albums, the rarely-heard title track of her debut Bleeding Diamonds EP, a new song entitled “Call Me The Witch”, and covers of Leadbelly, Benji Hughes and Cotton Mather (about whom she spilled the beans regarding an upcoming reunion at SXSW). After complimenting the audience on how quiet and attentive they were all night, she invited all to join in on “The Way It Is” and for the show closer and in what’s becoming a bit of a Drake tradition, came offstage to play “Neptune City” in the audience with everyone singing along.
Make no mistake, I loved both the widescreen, ornate presentation of Neptune City and the rawer, rockier Mondo Amore but if for her third record Nicole Atkins decides to peel things back to little more than what we saw on Saturday night, I’ve no doubt it’d be just as sublime.
Hater High was also in attendance and has the whole show recorded and available to download; it all sounds great but the banter prior to “Hotel Plaster” is especially worth hearing. The Free Lance-Star also has an interview.
Photos: Nicole Atkins @ The Drake Underground – December 3, 2011
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vitamin C”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”
Kind of an odd bill, but together The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys get to cross “go on an arena tour of North America” off their to-do lists. They’re at the Air Canada Centre on March 14 – presale goes December 6 at 10AM, public onsale on December 9. The Black Keys’ new album El Camino is out Tuesday.
The second Archers Of Loaf reissue – Vee Vee – has an official release date of February 21, and The AV Club has all the salient info. And they’ve also got Eric Bachmann doing a
One Track Mind performance and interview for “Web In Front”. Meanwhile, Bachmann puts his Crooked Fingers hat on to chat with Creative Loafing and The Phoenix New Times.
The first official single from Guided By Voices’ reunion record Let’s Go Eat The Factory is now available to download, all 1:44 of it. It will probably take you longer to read this interview with Bob Pollard at The AV Club than to listen to the song.
Blurt talks to Britta Phillips of Dean & Britta about being the voice of Jem (of Jem & The Holograms) back in the ’80s while Listgeeks chats with both her and Dean Wareham. And over at Captain’s Dead, they’ve got a downloadable recording of the “Plays Galaxie 500″ set they did at Primavera in Barcelona back in May.