Nicole Atkins and The Sea – Live @ Stone Pony, May 22
Nicole Atkins is well known for shaking things up artistically, delving deeper and deeper into lush sounds and arabesque textures with each new composition she introduces. This Pony show was a great example of that along with the fact that she never takes her eyes off the overall importance of her future, breaking out new material and as of this writing, breaking in a new band.
The Sea now consists of powerhouse Chris Donofrio on drums, Brad York on guitars, and Anthony Chick on bass (both from Low Flying Jets) along with special guest vocalist Leah Fishman and Rafael Fusco (keys) as well as multi-instrumentalist Shaun Brodie (A.C. Newman Band). While replacing her former group might seem curious to some, business is business and once you see the energy and passion of the new band live, you’ll know it was a well-executed decision that Atkins made for herself and her fans.
The second addition was the unveiling of brand new songs. The crowd buzzed with anticipation, and I observed the accompanying audience fanfare, proving once again that her star is rising. One excited fan had her cell phone on and was telling her daughter to wait, as any second the next new song Nicole song would be coming up.
New rockers like “The Tower” and “This is For Love” showed an intense Atkins, unveiling a cool edginess as she leaned into the crowd, feeding off their responses and squeezing every last drop of soul out of her performance, displaying urgency in gestures, aggressive guitars, and powerful lyrical content. Other glimmering newbies were “O Canada” and “Cry, Cry Cry,” a bouncy big band styled dance number that had the floor bending and shaking to the breaking point. The new songs fit well within her dark, trademarked style, but they’re also moving off into new directions as should be expected from an artist of her caliber.
The Stone Pony focused as the band laid into the set (even the smoking section was empty) filling the room to capacity. As usual, Atkins’ sense of humor was sharp and completely disarming, showing her at ease as she joked with the fans about her sisters disapproval of her awkward between song banter, her use of the “F” word and commenting that this was so much fun that perhaps “we should do this every week” to a raucous audience roar.
Atkins played hardball, rolling out an infectious sampling of Neptune City and switching up to a Fender Jazzmaster over her traditional Hagstrom Viking, playing off Brad York with the solid showmanship of a musician coming into her own primed stride. I’ve always told close friends, her sense of contrast and color is perfect for a David lynch film sound track, and I believe that she’ll end up in one of those films one day soon. A writer that displays this level of talent has their own way into all areas of the industry.
While the next record is still in production, Nicole will be unveiling select new cuts as well as songs from her current Columbia CD, Neptune City this weekend at Irving Plaza in NYC with special guests the Avett Brothers. Go see Nicole Atkins and The Sea this weekend and be part of a happening that you’ll remember for a long, long time. For further information go to nicoleatkins.com.
We’re All Bozos: The Larry Blasco Memorial Show @ Stone Pony, June 12
Larry Blasco was the last holdout of The Stone Pony’s original production staff and good guy in the scene, helping young bands and lending his expertise wherever needed. Larry’s skill as light guy, and guitar tech extraordinaire paved the way for many industry guys that now work for the union shops. Larry passed away on March 30 at the age of 51.
Friends of Larry put this show together to help with expenses associated with his passing and it looks to be a genuine reuniting of the Shore’s glory days crew featuring Cahoots plus Boccigalupe and the Badboys and special guest Chick-A-Boom and surprise guests. Cahoots, who will be headlining, is a band that brags former members such as George Theiss, John Oeser, Steve Schraeger, Michael Scialfa, and Tommy LaBella as well as several guest players that shot to the top.
I spoke with lead singer and keyboardist Tony (Boccigalupe) Amato and asked about one of his recollections of life in a band with Larry: “Larry got his start with Cahoots as a roadie and guitar tech and sometimes things could go wrong in hilarious ways. At one point, Lance Larson was the soundman and Larry was the roadie, and they were driving down Ocean Avenue, and Larry had forgotten to close the back doors to the truck… which wasn’t a good idea as they left a trail of gear down Ocean Ave, including my Hammond organ that went bouncing out all over the street. Another time, he snuck the same truck out and even though he was only going a block away, he crashed it into the fire station (laughs). But looking back he was a very giving guy, we became good friends and were all honored to do this for him.”
Donations will go to the Make A Wish foundation. For further information go to: stoneponyonline.com
Leaving Sideways @ Starland Ballroom, June 13
Leaving Sideways have been making strides all over the tri-state area, working on the release of their forthcoming CD, produced by Tim Gilles (Taking Back Sunday, Thursday). Mastered by industry kingpin Alan Douches, these guys are once again attacking The Starland Ballroom with their brand of hard rocking mayhem this Saturday as part of the “Sounds Of Seattle” tour. Catch them if you can and check out their muic over at myspace.com/leavingsideways