Thursday 8 June 2023

Nicole Atkins and Jim Sclavunos - Manchester Yes - 7th June 2023

Nicole Atkins and Jim Sclavunos called in at Yes in Manchester on Wednesday night as part of their tour to perform tracks from Nicole's back catalogue as well as their unreleased duets album. Accompanied by Davey Horne on keys, the trio delivered a set of songs rich in variety that showcased the range of Nicole's vocals from rock and roll to powerful ballads as well as full of between song humour.

It's four years since Nicole's last record Italian Ice and over six since her last visit to Manchester and at the end she promises they'll be back sooner. In that time, we've had the pandemic, which Nicole jokes was a great time to release that album, and she's recorded a duets album with long-term collaborator Jim Sclavunos of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds amongst others. This tour is to preview that album - and we get a series of six songs from it mid-set as well as one more at the end. 

The first half of the set is Nicole's solo tracks, mainly taken from the Italian Ice album, although the set starts with debut album Neptune City's title track. The Italian Ice tracks, recorded in Nashville, the home of country music, showcase Nicole's chameleon-like ability to adjust her voice to sound perfect in any setting, whether it be country, rock or more tender balladry. She comments at one point at how quiet the audience is, not chatting during the songs, and it's because we're transfixed by the voice that seems so effortless yet so rich and redolent. 

The duet tracks are playful and fun even when the subject matter gets darker. There's a strong stage chemistry between Nicole and Jim that plays out in the songs both in the way their personalities and the difference in vocal styles are etched across them. The songs, mostly unreleased save for A Man Like Me, have a classic duet feel that gives them a sense of familiarity even though we're hearing them for the first time because of the strength of the connection between them. Memories Come And Go is particularly poignant whilst Strange Weather which finishes the show sees Jim emerge from behind the drum kit to sing alongside Nicole with just Davey on keyboards.

There's lots of humour too. Nicole taking her shoes off and then telling how her feet are scored 4.5 on Wikifeet, pretending to be an Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood covers bands, joking that Mind Eraser is "about the same thing as every Oasis song, fucking nothing" and laughing at the suggestion that she might go jogging ever. She regularly thanks the crowd, appreciative of their attentiveness and clearly at her happiest up on stage. The duets album with Jim promises to be one of this year's most interesting releases if it sees the light of day, but tonight was also a reminder of the power of her voice and the underappreciated quality of her back catalogue.

Nicole and Jim played Neptune City, War Torn, AM Gold, Brokedown Luck, Domino, Mind Eraser, Never Goin' Home, A Little Crazy, Walkin', Feign, Take Aim And Shoot, Memories Come And Go, A Man Like Me, Halfway House, Captain, A Night Of Serious Drinking, Maybe Tonight and Strange Weather.

Nicole Atkins' website can be found here.  She is also on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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