Nikka spreads her wings.
Review and Photos by Barry BrecheisenIt's a cold Sunday night in Chicago and I've come out to catch the latest buzz girl. You've probably heard her music and didn't even know it. People started paying attention to her last summer when her song "Like a Feather" appeared in a Tommy Hilfiger commercial. Not to mention her videos have been plastered all over the airwaves on MTV and VH1 this year. If you haven't noticed that R&B soul is back with the likes of D'Angelo opening up the doors last year with his CD, Voodoo and having all the newcomers flock in afterward. This year we have seen the likes of Alicia Keys, Maxwell and now Nikka Costa.
As the lights faded, the band picked up their instruments and a beautiful and funky tornado with red hair burst onto the stage. She arrived ready and willing to prove she is every bit deserving of the hype that has followed her this year. The opener "Some Kind of Beautiful" was funky with it's catchy lyrics that stole your attention away from her body. With sexy lyrics like, "There ain't no deeper feeling I get nowhere than when I'm the skin beneath your hands. You're some kind of beautiful in my life." Hot lyrics. Hot songwriter. She's a cross between a "shaken' her stuff" Charo and the raw power of a Janis Joplin. Make no mistake about it this girl demands your attention the minute she hits the stage. "Cootchie Cootchie" indeed. During "Like a Feather," I watched her shake it like she was trying to throw her hips into the audience. By the end, she was on her knees screaming through the chorus proclaiming personal freedom. This, people is a live performance. This is as alive as I think I can handle. We're only going into the 4th song and I'm exhausted for her. Hell, I need oxygen myself. The next song, "Tug of War" had Nikka bringing it down a level for a brief moment. It's nice and refreshing to see a relatively new artist come out and give us all her sweat and pain from the first note. Actually, truth be told she's been in the music business almost all her life. She recorded and released her first self-titled album back in '81 at the ripe old age of nine. It just goes to show it doesn't hurt to be the daughter of the legendary producer and composer Don Costa. Growing up Nikka was surround by legends like Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., and even Sly Stone. She's actually been receiving a lot of flack in the press for this and being the goddaughter of all people, Frank Sinatra himself. However, I didn't hear this same negativity in the press when Jacob Dylan first appeared on the music scene or when Michael Douglas was first starting out on the "Streets of San Francisco." Give the girl a break.
Later, standing in her brown cowboy boots. "Where are the super bitches? Where are the ladies? Nikka announced looking out to the audience. "This is a song for you guys. Not to exclude the men but... I was going out with this man that was sleeping around on me," she explained. "You're too good for him," an audience member shouts out. "We're all too good for him," Nikka expressed in response. "So I wrote a letter and I put it on the album, so I got the last laugh motherf*cker! This is 'Hope it Felt Good' ." Guitar wails kicked in as a wall of funk jumped in to slap him in the face. I don't know about the former guy but it's feeling great on my end. She ends it with a kick to the air in defiance. Man, by the end of her show I too felt like I cheated on my girlfriend. Her unapologetic approach and raw sexuality combined with straddling the mic stand, like a Vegas stripper, was enough to make me want to run for a cold shower.
"Thing is I think I need to clarify my shit." Nikka proclaimed over a funk beat taken right out of James Brown's song book. "People have been asking who are you...jazz, soul, funk, rap? It's important to have one word. I don't think one word can explain who you are." Looking to the diversity of tonight's audience I think it's possible she could very well be all of these things and more. The beats reveal themselves not to be of the James Brown school but of a friend of hers past, Sly Stone. "Thank you for letting me be myself again" she sang over and over as the audience joined in to the Sly & the Family Stone classic, "Thank You (Falentine Be Mice Elf Agin)." Doing only the chorus before flowing right into her own "Everybody Got Their Something." It's a nice intro to something old and something new. Maybe that's Nikka Costa in a nutshell.
For her encore she decided to play a couple of well chosen covers. First up was Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children." Again paying tribute and forging a bridge to the new world of R&B soul. For a woman with a small frame she can belt it out and hold a note with the best of them. The song closed with a nice rapping duet from the two keyboardists at both ends of the stage. "Give it to them one more time for my superfly band. This is our first headlining tour and thank you for making it so easy to come out tonight," Nikka revealed. The show closed with a acapella rendition of "Sistas." Many will recognize this song from film "The Color Purple" also known as "Miss Celie's Blues." "I hope you think that you're something too," Nikka sang to the crowd. And it's a nice way to end the evening. If you have her CD you're only getting half of the Nikka Costa experience. Come out and see her in a small club while you still can. It won't be long before she's headlining with the big boys.
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