Trying to keep pace with the heat wave that enveloped St. Louis this summer, Nikka Costa brought her funky grooves to town for a scorching set at the Old Rock House last night.
Peppering the set with material from her new release PRO*WHOA, Costa and her excellent backing band powered through 16 songs in just over 90 minutes.
Costa brings sexy, empowering lyrics and an infectious groove to her music; not to mention one hell of a voice. It’s easy to see why the 25 to 45 year old audience was filled with women to see this liberating performer live. In fact, Costa thanked the crowd for "supporting live music." As she noted her work is fueled mostly by word of mouth. With only a third of the venue sold, the 100 to 150 people were sure to tell their friends about this great show today and for days to come.
With a live sound much more raw than her work presented via albums, Costa and her band brought the influential elements of ‘60s soul and ‘70s funk buried in her recorded music to the forefront. Backed by organ, trombone, guitar, bass guitar and drums, the sextet stayed firmly in the R & B genre, but moved around various subgenres effortlessly. Hints of James Brown funk surfaced on "Can’tneverdidnothin'" -complete with a muted trombone solo - while other tracks contained soul and even blues.
Dressed in a silver sequined shirt over black tights capped off by high boots, Costa took the stage promptly at the early hour of 8 p.m. Having recently played some dates with Australian band INXS (Costa’s husband is Australian), Costa seemed back in her natural element in the small club atmosphere. She filled her songs with a soaring voice that highlighted a wide vocal range that seemed to hit four octaves.
Shaking her reddish curly locks wildly about as she danced, Costa gyrated her hips as thrust her pelvis sexily to the beat. With seductive looks to the audience, she drew the audience out of their shells to get them involved as another "band member." Eventually she had the audience dancing and singing along without reserve. All except one concertgoer in a red shirt seated at the front of the balcony who she called out by asking, “Are you this shy in bed?”
During the middle of the set Costa related a story about opening up for INXS before playing her song about perserverence - "Keep Pushin'." She related how she and the band were pushed to play well over an hour one night rather than the normal 45 minute opening sets. They worked hard to get everybody up dancing and having a good time. The next night reality sank in again as the group didn't get a dressing room and their rider ignored. Receiving just water from the promoter, they had to eat dinner out of to-go containers on the bus. Costa summed up thusly, "These are the thing you do."
The energy level went up another notch as the Costa broke into "Everybody Got Their Something" and the audience cheered wildly expressing their excitement. Before ending the main set with "Can't Please Everybody," Costa gave the audience some advice. She said, "Find what you love and go do it" without sounding preachy. She continued, "Its all about ditching our toxic friends." By the positive crowd reaction, her words were taken to heart.
After the show Costa stationed herself at the merch table to sign autographs and chat with fans for over an hour. After the warm reception last night, fans of music with real soul can expect a return trip to the Gateway City sooner than the five year gap it took to get her back this time. She promised.
Nikka Costa set list
Keep Wanting More
Like A Feather
Nylons In A Rip
Push & Pull
Never Wanna C U Again
Happy In The Morning
Pebble To A Pearl
Everybody Got Their Something
Can't Please Everybody
Stuff Loving You
-? I cant keep a home – bluesy (guitar, trombone, Nikka Costa on vocals)