It all came about very suddenly. Nicole announced it midweek on her blogs, and fortunately I was free that day to attend. The promise was to hear some more "new songs". Who can resist that?
The Langosta Lounge is a nice looking restaurant, right on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. On entering, Nicole and her drummer Chris were set up just inside the entrance to the right. She was about to start so I grabbed a seat up close to snap some pics and capture the songs on video.
Nicole accompanies herself quite well with just an acoustic guitar. Adding Chris on "soft" drums (he used brushes) contributed just the right amount of percussive punch to the songs.
The first song I captured was this version of "Skywriters"
a great song off of her 2005 release "Party's Over".
Nic and Chris worked quite well together. You could see way they connected musically, which made the casual early afternoon performance light and breezy.
Next up was a real treat as Nicole announced a brand new never before heard song from her called "Cry Cry Cry". This was the first time she played it out in public. It's so new, in fact, that I am verboten from posting it up publicly, until all copyright issues have been worked out. I will tell you that it is yet another great new song. She was not kidding when she kept telling everyone that she's been busy "writng new songs".
Moving further into the set, Nicole dipped back again to 2005's "Party's Over" record for her emotionally charged song "War Torn".
You can see this here:
The duo then moved on to one of Nicole's more popular numbers from her Neptune City album, the good-timey "Maybe Tonight". Longtime fan's of Nicole have heard her play this many times. But each setting (and performance) is unique. Adding a new drummer playing soft brush percussion gives it just the right lift (despite Nic hitting a few "naff" chords - and laughing about it too).
Have a listen to it here:
What followed that was yet-another song that was so brand spanking new that (again) I have been sworn not to post it publicly - which, of course I completely understand. We shouldn't provide easy access to anyone that might possibly be hunting for a musical idea or creative lyrical turn. Anyway, the song is called "Civil War" and (like most Nicole songs) has a very catchy chorus.
She followed that up with a cover of the Michael Nesmith written song "Different Drum" that became one of Linda Rondstadt's greatest hits. Nicole amusingly mentioned how Mike Nesmith was her favorite Monkee because "he was the weird, quiet one" and that "he was really tall". A bit more chatter about favorite Monkee's went on, before Nicole played an effortlessly perfect version of this song.
Hear (and see) the performance here:
Nicole played two more songs - new one's that she's played at her last few gigs - "The Tower" and "Hotel Plaster"
In particular, the song "Hotel Plaster" resonates quite strongly with me. The chorus is so emotionally charged, as Nicole sings "think of me as prisoner in the hotel plaster - far from the shelter of your side". A song about the damage we do to each other in relationships, as she sings "I know we hurt each other pretty bad" and how "we broke the diamond with our bitter words." Yet, there is still a glimmer of hope as she also sings "hold on to our lives" and to "pray for answers". Coupled with a beautiful melody, the evolution of Ms. Atkins and her music is clearly on display.
You can listen to this particular version here:
Here's the setlist from the show that Nicole was sweet enough to let me have. As you can see she didn't stick to the order or even all the songs on it. It served more as a guidline or memory jogger, as she called out what she wanted to play to her drummer with her own internal sense of how the show was going (and where she wanted to take it)
One cool thing she had in her merch collection was this:
It's a "skin" that you put on your MP3 player.
I just had to have one!
Learn more about this cool Asbury Park (Jersey, man!) restaurant here:
And about the amazing Nicole Atkins here: