If we’re being honest, we were attracted to this show to see the legendary Jim Sclavunos. He started his career in Teenage Jesus And The Jerks with Lydia Lunch before playing with The Cramps and Sonic Youth. As if that wasn’t quite cool enough, he has been an actual Bad Seed since the nineties and was also part of Grinderman. In addition, he has produced some great albums by a range of artists from Gogol Bordello and Beth Orton to The Wytches.
Despite a recording career that stretches back to 2005, Nicole has largely escaped our attention. That mistake however is fixed tonight, while our photographer assures us: her show at the Great Escape 12 years ago was deeply captivating.
The evening begins with a soulful support set from Davey Horne, who later plays the keys with Nicole. He provides a warm start with songs that sit somewhere between ‘Passengers’ era Elton and the seventies work of the late great Michael Chapman. Swapping between keys and guitar, Davey also has a fine singing voice, its Glaswegian lilt soaring above the music.
Nicole Atkins then takes to the stage with Jim on drums and Davey behind the keyboard. She has clearly enjoyed her sunny seaside day in Brighton: “It’s like Saturday out there.”
Starting with ‘Neptune City’ from the 2007 album of the same name, she captivates from the get go. It’s a perfect mix of stylish delivery with self-deprecating humour, while her singing captures something of Dusty and Janis and even the ‘Age Of Aquarius’.
Jim starts to beat out a rhythm on his leg before the excellent Motown shuffle of ‘Brokedown Luck’ explodes into a fearsome live version.
The banter between songs is very genuine. There are stories involving collapsing bathroom ceilings, Hoagy Carmichael, and one that connects Jim’s mum, Willie Nelson and ‘Nancy & Lee’.
At one point she quips “People ask me what this song is about. It’s like an Oasis song; it’s about f*cking nothing.”
Nicole repeatedly announces ‘Mind Eraser’, just to get frustrated that it’s not on the set-list. “Do you want to play it?” says Jim. Thankfully she does as it is an incredible song, with a very sleazy undertow.
Jim then leaves the kit and joins Nicole at the front for their cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Strange Weather’. It is a masterpiece in the art of theatrical delivery. This particular SOURCE writer is left pinching himself that he is watching an actual Bad Seed singing Tom Waits, next to a stunning songwriter, who will soon be finding her place in his record collection. A perfect moment to end a wonderful evening.
Form present: Nicol Atkins and Jim Sclavunos
Komedia, Tuesday 6th June 2023
Words by Nick McAllister
Photos by Jon Southcoasting