Nikki Lane performs at U Street Music Hall on Feb. 27, 2017. (Photo by Chester Simpson)
Nikki Lane arrived on the stage of U Street Music Hall with a cheery disposition and the bright radiance of a Texas bluebonnet.
“You’re the best looking crowd we’ve had so far,” Nikki said playfully to the rather full concert hall. “But are you the *best* crowd we’ve had so far?”
One thing’s for certain — the crowd ate up every little bit of music they could get from Nikki and her band. These folks were hungry for great country music smack in the middle of DC’s biggest nightlife district, something that doesn’t come along all that often. And Nikki came from Nashville to give them plenty to chew on.
Nikki kicked off the show with “Highway Queen,” the title track from her new third album, Highway Queen, only just released Feb. 17 via New West Records. Despite her youthful looks, the First Lady of Outlaw Country sounds like she’s seen it all, her voice weathered and weary. When Nikki plays guitar, she plays like she was born to it, hugging her Gibson to her hips. When she doesn’t play, she strides across the stage like a cat.
Her sweet disposition may come somewhat from the fact that she’s touring and writing with her boyfriend, Texas musician Jonathan Tyler, who coproduced the new album for her. Jonathan started the night with a short set of solo material then later joined Nikki, carrying a guitar as a member of the band. They are more than capably supported by Alex Munoz on guitar, Eric Whitman on bass, and a drummer whose name I didn’t catch.
“This is the song you wrote to bait me,” Nikki accused Jonathan before they launched into a duet of his song “To Love Is to Fly,” which appeared on his record Holy Smokes. Nikki and Jonathan deliver some more pleasant banter throughout the set, and particularly when she closes with “Jackpot” from her new album. She introduces the song, saying, “This is a sweetheart song I wrote for that boy over there.”
“Jackpot” is a jumping, upbeat song celebrating love as if it were a casino win. The song maintains a fun gallop, which leaves the audience hungering for more. In the encore, she charms with a surprising cover of “You Ain’t Going’ Nowhere” by Bob Dylan.
Her set is replete with other gems, including songs like the maudlin “You Can’t Talk to Me Like That” and the celebratory “Right Time” from her second album All or Nothing. She bows to her first album Walk of Shame mid-set with the defiant “Gone, Gone, Gone.”
Nikki Lane continues her tour Thursday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and presses across the country and back to wind down in Nashville on May 19. Then she hops to Europe! If you’re in the mood for some cool country, you can count on Nikki to provide you with plenty of memorable, meaningful tunes in her inimitable Southern twang. My hat’s off to her specifically because she took the time to meet all the fans who stayed behind to chat with her and take selfies at the end of the night. The lady’s got style *and* class!
Buy Highway Queen by Nikki Lane on Amazon.
For more from our photographer Chester Simpson, visit http://www.rock-n-rollphotos.com.
Here are some more pictures of Nikki Lane performing at U Street Music Hall on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. (Photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson.)
Chester (with Nikki above) also shared this photo he took of her at Red Wing III Festival on July 11, 2015.