After all the hard work and build up to the release of her crowd-funded new album Slow Phaser, Nicole Atkins’ national tour begins this week. Wednesday night she played a surprise warm up show at The Saint, which included support from Amy Malkoff and the Moonshines, Davey Horne, and the Glycerine Queens. The loaded bill had everyone packing The Saint, regardless of the imminent snow storm that was expected to start at any moment, to give a proud home-town send off to one of their own.
The celebration began with Amy Malkoff & The Moonshines, fixtures on the scene that never give a disappointing performance. Her brand of Americana romanticism complimented nicely with Davey Horne, who not only plays guitar in Atkins’s touring band, but is also a budding singer-songwriter that will be playing as opener for a few of the shows on the tour. His set was a perfect match for the snowy evening as he strummed out melodies on his acoustic guitar, and gave them an even bigger emotional punch with some beautiful harmonica solos.
Changing gears, and the complete tone of the room, were Glycerine Queens, who caught the attention of Nicole Atkins, and have since been working with her to produce their first album. It was my first time really hearing them except for a single song on their Sound Cloud that I found to be hypnotic and gorgeous. I was excited to see and hear them, and as the room became more packed with what seemed to be family and friends and local support, they have a base of people who believe in them.
The four young girls took to the stage and jumped into a few tracks (“Caught My Eye,” “Child of the Moon”) that sounded like classic-rock throw backs, complete with lead singer Cynthia Rittenbach jumping up the front of the stage and letting her hair hang over the mic as she channeled her inner rock persona. Throughout their set they premiered some of the tracks from their upcoming album, which had a dreamy-surf rock sound to them that left a more striking impression than the tracks heavier on the classic rock.
Stand out tracks included “Some People,” “She Thinks She Knows,” “Rain Room” and “Agnus.” Cynthia’s feathery, detached voice would float in and out, ontop of Kayla Cervone’s light bass playing, as guitarist Kayla Smith’s solos were like rays of sun that gave each track a new perspective. They closed with a cover of Tame Impala’s “Elephant,” which, although played very fast, included a great solo from drum player Jen Amoscato. I don’t know what their new album will bring, but these four are definitely ready to stir up a storm.
As Nicole Atkins took the stage, the room was packed with energy, and, pressed against the small stage, I couldn’t turn around with bumping into a person with a camera held out. As the curtain opened, Nicole and her band jumped into Mondo Amore‘s “Vultures.” Aside from the the intensity at which they jumped in, the most immediately striking detail was her outfit, a psychedelic kimono that had me thinking she was conducting some kind of electrified disco sermon.
And electrified the crowd was, as she jumped into album opener “Who Killed The Moonlight?” (which matched pretty perfectly with The Saint’s iconic mini disco ball) and the vintage-pop track “Cool People.” A personal highlight for me was the duo of tracks “What Do You Know?” and “Gasoline Bride,” which besides being the prog-rock center pieces of the new album are just absolute showstoppers live. Making it a triple threat was the follow-up of “Red Ropes,” another personal favorite that is just as beautiful live with the backing vocals of her band.
Despite saying she would be moving on from Neptune City tracks, the band still had time to jump into the much loved “The Way It Is,” which had the whole room singing along, which just goes to show even a sad song can be a singalong if the composition is right. They also played “Cool Enough,” a track best chosen to showcase the tight playing of all the band members with its room-freezing finale. “The Worst Hangover” and “Sin Song” were reworked into a fun two-parter. They closed the show out with “It’s Only Chemistry,” another favorite of mine that tricks you by being pretty damn depressing as well, but catchy and joyous all the same.
It wasn’t until Nicole and her band went outside before the encore that the room woke up to the reality of snow once more. Outside, at least an inch had already fallen and it was going strong. They came out once more, played album closer “Above Us Below” and with much thanks and happiness, said goodnight. No matter where the tour takes them, they’ll always have a home on that small stage at the Saint, and a supportive community that comes through, sun or snow.
Photos by Jim Appio