ACL Live Review: Nicole Atkins

Add another singular singer to the Asbury Park roll call

The first festival Nicole Atkins ever played was ACL Fest 2007, and the Asbury Park, NJ., native made a splash with a set that recalled her city’s most famous son, Bruce Springsteen. For her return early on the festival’s second Friday, Atkins began her BMI stage set evoking another of her hometown’s heroes: Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Augmenting her five-person band with a horn section borrowed from locals Mingo Fishtrap, the singer-songwriter rode the line between soul and rock on “Brokedown Luck,” exhibiting the same finesse as Johnny Lyons himself.

The song hails from her fourth album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, produced by Niles City Sound, who helmed Leon Bridges’ debut. From then on, she alternated between rocking R&B and her album’s other predominant style, a lush hybrid of Roy Orbison’s lovelorn drama, Dusty Springfield’s cool soul, and Charlie Rich’s late-night balladry.

The burning emotion of “A Little Crazy,” co-written by her “high school boyfriend Chris Isaak; he doesn’t know he was my boyfriend,” toughened up the lavishness without obscuring the overt romanticism at its core. Atkins took a detour with “Too Late,” a Bash & Pop track she co-wrote with Tommy Stinson and duetted in Austin with Midlake’s Eric Pulido.

In the main, she stuck to the album’s guns, getting the crowd moving with the funky “Sleepwalking” and bringing them to itheir knees with the bombastic “A Dream Without Pain.” It takes impressive skill to draw so earnestly from such old-fashioned sounds with fetishizing them, but Atkins has the heart, humor, and craft to pull it off.

Check out our daily ACL coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Nicole Atkins
SXSW Music Review: Nicole Atkins/Erin Rae
SXSW Music Review: Nicole Atkins/Erin Rae
The new Nashville sound

Doug Freeman, March 16, 2019

Nicole Atkins’ Showpiece Pipes
Nicole Atkins’ Showpiece Pipes
Soulfully sober siren entrances Antone’s

Lauren Modery, Dec. 1, 2017

More by Michael Toland
Texas Platters
Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord
Harder On the Outside (Record Review)

March 22, 2019

SXSW Music Review: Swervedriver
SXSW Music Review: Swervedriver
Pulling the plug on the sweetest of crunches

March 16, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Nicole Atkins, ACL Fest 2018, ACL Music Fest 2018, Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Johnny Lyons, Mingo Fishtrap, Niles City Sound, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Charlie Rich, Chris Isaak, Tommy Stinson, Midlake, Eric Pulido

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle