Appropriately tucked inside the “Best Remnant of the 40’s”, Nicole Atkins’ tour of her 5th album release, Italian Ice, brought a wave of retro vibes to the Minnesota last night. Atkins has been the Dr. Sam Beckett of musicians. Much like Quantum Leap, Atkins time travels back into classic soul, pop, and rock eras to draw from the ’50s,’60s, and 70’s for inspiration.
But instead of finding herself in a genre needing to fix something before leaping on, Nicole brilliantly surrounds herself with incredible producers and musicians that makes everything sound perfect. Each leap and album in this “pop noir” singers career comes with her trademark strut, groove, and soul. Last night was a display of this time travel ability at it’s fullest.
Good Night Gold Dust
Opening the evening was Good Night Gold Dust. Bathed in the gold shine of the lights, Laura Schultz kicked off with “California”. The slow build into heavy guitars by Colin Scharf sparked a set filled with dramatic bouts of energy and tippy-toed guitar solos. Dance heavy songs “Thieves” and “Waves” injected movement into the audience. The Mankato based indie-electronic quartet showcased this high energy dynamic as Colin and Laura shared in lead vocals.
Watching Colin play the guitar using his entire body to shred was powerful. The electricity of being propped on his toes and wide power poses seeped off the stage. The beautiful “What A Time” was another highlight with Laura and Colin’s voices blending together in a climatic finish. Keep your ears open to hear it on The Current.
An immediately sign of time travel was the band members having handkerchiefs hanging from their back pockets. This 60’s throwback has ties in Italy and Greece, as well as resurgence in the 70’s. A clever little detail to help set the stage for the Quantum Leaper herself. Kicking off the evening was “Maybe Tonight” off her 2007 Neptune City release. Playing a slew of songs from that album, “The Way It Is” and “Neptune City”, Nicole shared that she’s planning to go back to re-record the album this coming December.
Before playing “Goodnight Rhonda Lee” Nicole reminded everyone that the last time she was in Minnesota was when Charlie Sheen was in the news for drinking tiger’s blood. Boy times have changed since then. Italian Ice is filled with pockets of classic throwback influences. “St. Dymphna” brings along a 50’s Louis Prima, while album opener “AM Gold” has a 70’s ELO glow to it. Both performances felt timeless so close to each other in the set list.
Nicole asked before playing “Domino” if the venue had a disco ball. The disco-laced, groovy-licious song fit perfectly with Nicole’s breathy vocals and strut. Add in the bass player chomping on gum, the keyboardist head-bopping, and the absence of the Turf’s disco ball was sorely felt. One tradition at any Nicole Atkin’s show is the Ted Danson slow dance contest. The co-wrote Chris Isaak song “A Little Crazy” had the audience paired up dancing with the house lights turned on.
The talent of Atkins comes for the ability to time travel different decades of influence, combining her big soulful voice into pop, country, funk, and disco elements. “Forever” and “Captain” are two perfect examples of this. “Forever” is filled with an 80’s power pop ballad and Stevie Nicks vibe, while “Captain” is a dreamy, twang slow-dance country song. Both land on the same album and feel completely intergrated due to Nicole’s voice and songwriting.
It would be negligent to leave out the end of the show, especially with the encore being a cover of Led Zeppelin “What Is And What Should Never Be”. Transported back to 1969, Nicole’s band channeled the grit, groove, and smoothness that had the crowd blown away. That is the pure definition of how you should handle a encore in 2021.
Catch Quantum Leaper Nicole Atkins on tour before she takes her final leap home. Relive all the throwback influences combined into one show. Nicole’s propensity to encapsulate these into albums should persuade you to have your own retro leap; buying a vinyl record at the merch table.