(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Indie-rock singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins brings her blend of pop-fueled hooks and moody introspection to Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday, February 14, at 9pm, providing a perfect soundtrack for a modern-day Valentine’s Day adventure.
Atkins’s unique blend of styles connects the dots from Roy Orbison to the Shangri-Las to Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin to Bruce Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco and Radiohead – all tied up in a unique, compelling package of her own. And you’d better be careful with it, because it could steal your heart, as it has stolen mine.
I needed look and listen no further than to the great video for her pop hit, “Girl You Look Amazing.” I’m a huge fan of the Pretenders, and to me she comes across as a 21st century update of Chrissie Hynde — she does sultry, sexy, soulful, and sassy, and also turns out to be a great actress.
Nicole Atkins grew up in Bruce Springsteen country, in Neptune, N.J. As a teenager, she was a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, which you can hear in some of her vocals and song dynamics. She learned to play acoustic and electric guitar, as well as piano, and went to art school in North Carolina, where she became an accomplished illustrator. While at university, Atkins began listening to bands like Uncle Tupelo and Superchunk, perhaps accounting for her more rootsy efforts in the vein of Wilco. After college, she moved to New York and played in the burgeoning creative scene emerging in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
Digging further into her work, you find “Who Killed the Moonlight?” – a soulful pop-rock number filled with hooks that grab you and pull you along, with maybe a hint of Stevie Nicks in her vibrato. “Maybe Tonight” is like girl-group meets Motown, and “War Torn” – played live on Letterman – sounds like what would have happened if Janis Joplin fronted Radiohead.
Among the highlights of her emerging career have been contributing a dark, intimate version of “Dancing in the Dark” to a Bruce Springsteen tribute album, making it sound much more in line with a Springsteen song than the brash, commercial, disco-rock version the Boss recorded in the mid-1980s. I would rarely make a claim like this, but I actually think her version of the Boss’s “Dancing in the Dark” is better than the original – it gets to the guts of what is a great moody song, and not just an MTV pop-disco hit. I bet it’s what Springsteen had in mind in the first place.
Atkins has a great way with covers, and they also reveal her musical influences at the same time. Here’s a lo-fi video of her covering Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” which makes total sense – listen all the way to the end when she really lets loose. And if you need any further confirmation of her good taste in songwriters, see her cover Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”.
Atkins, who has been featured on NPR, in Relix and Paste magazines, and in the Wall Street Journal, has hinted that she is going to be taking Valentine’s Day very seriously in her show at Helsinki Hudson on Saturday night, so it sounds like we are going to be treated to a one-of-a-kind event. You’ll want to be able to say you were there.
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800.