Seems Like the 'Right Time' for Nikki Lane: Concert Review

Nikki Lane - P 2014
Tim Plumley/New West Records

Nikki Lane - P 2014

Sex 'n' swagger on the half shell, she's a gritty femme fatale, sharpening the tauter rock edge live of her hot new album, produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

With echoes of Jackie DeShannon and Dusty Springfield, this emerging Queen of Outlaw Country made timelessness real during her nine-song set.

With a Jackie DeShannon echo beat, Nikki Lane hit 3rd & Lindsley with her breathy, betrayed call-out to a philandering paramour, “Good Man,” and the notion of real time melted. Vintage as contemporary, modern as throwback, the fashionista-turned-songstress made timelessness real during her nine-song set.

In a grey Dylan cap, matchstick jeans shoved into close-fitting knee-high white cowgirl boots and a peasant-y white camisole – black bra straps showing -- unbuttoned to the clavicle, she was Ronstadt-gone-biker chick. Her sartorial brio isn’t empty bravado; Lane double-fists irony and taunting with her truculent “Sleep With a Stranger,” a do-me-then-get-away challenge to potential paramours that packs Chrissie Hynde en fuego’s wallop. Sex ’n’ swagger on the half shell, she’s a gritty femme fatale.

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With buzz hitting deafening levels -- Rolling Stone can’t get enough of her and non-comm radio’s catching up – Lane seems to be maintaining equilibrium in rarified air. To her credit, rather than basking in the Dusty Springfield/countrypolitan nostalgia of her recently released New West Records album All or Nothin’, she seeks a tauter rock edge.

Tom Petty’s “Saving Grace” got a hard-charge, slashed chords and a sangfroid vocal suggesting both the road’s urgency and inherent boredom. Lane’s ability to hit the white hot center in the ennui may have prompted producer Dan Auerbach to deem her songs stunning, raving to Rolling Stone, “They’re old and new at the same time.”

Her racing pulse noir “Seein’ Double” rushes an old cowboy movie’s urgency. Adding close ghosting harmonies from acoustic guitarist Shelly Colvin, Lane brings a haunted dimension to the heartbreak.

Even more than spaghetti Westerns, Neil Young’s presence looms large. Without straight embrace, the languidly mid-tempo “You Can’t Talk to Me Like That,” suggesting a sweet-talker shut up unless he’s gonna back it up, takes its roots crunch from the dual acoustic guitar/electric guitar interplay and lays slightly back in the beat, fangs bared in sleepy caution.

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By the time Lane, jet-black hair and feet-firm stance, swings into “Stranger,” momentum’s her’s. The plucky free-lover tumbles into the creeping “For What It’s Worth” suggesting “All or Nothin’,” which lays down a gauntlet. She then raises the stakes with her set-closing/album-opening “Right Time.”

As a climax, “Right Time” works literally and metaphorically. If Lane is charting a course as the Queen of Outlaw Country, a chanted chorus of “It’s always the right time/To do the wrong thing” isn’t a bad start. As the drummer hits the rims with crisp precision, her siren song of wrong picks up steam as the admonishing invitation  “if you’re looking looking for a good time, you’n’me’ll get on just fine” throbs with promise, libido and disaster.

A fraught mix, yet Lane – who walks the rock, not country side of this sort of life – knows it’s the kinda cocktail that’ll get you high. Not a bad place for a bad ass girl of certain hungers to be.

Set list: 

Good Man
You Can’t Talk to Me Like That
Seein’ Double
Want My Heart Back
Saving Grace
Sleep with a Stranger
All or Nothin’
Right Time