I came to Nicole Atkins late, via David Byrne Radio in 2008, and she’s been on my playlist ever since. Born Neptune, New Jersey, did the usual elliptical, formative stuff, formed Nicole Atkins & The Sea, released a terrific debut album, Neptune City, produced by Tore Johansson, in late 2007, subsequent parting of the ways with Columbia and others, another album, Mondo Amore, and this unplugged gig in rainy Clerkenwell.
Downstairs at The Slaughtered Lamb is a dark, airless place and I didn’t see her appear out of the gloom until she plugged her acoustic guitar into the PA on the small patch of leopard-patterned carpet that was the entire performance area. After the overflowing orchestration of Neptune City and the raw, swampy Mondo Amore, could a girl with a guitar still slay us?
Well, yes, she could. Kicked off with Maybe Tonight, a simple strum, and her voice nailed it from the start. It’s an old-school voice, straight and true, no over-decoration, no warbling. She’s good with the audience, which is handy since they are about a yard in front of her nose, a little banter and a plea for a cold beer melt our London chill.
The beer was procured and bought a bitter-sweet The Way It Is, and a fan’s earlier Twitter request for Bleeding Diamonds had her relearning a track she hasn’t touched since 2006. Her set included Hotel Plaster, Cry, Cry, Cry, Tower and the unreleased Call Me The Witch.
She gave us an encore of Orbison’s Crying, via kd lang, fluffed the D+ chord and winged it charmingly. The gig gets an A+ from me.