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Posted at 11:00 PM ET, 03/10/2011

In concert: Nicole Atkins at Rock & Roll Hotel

By Dave McKenna

nicole atkinsNicole Atkins, shown here performing in New York in February, brought her big voice to Rock & Roll Hotel on Wednesday. (Michael Loccisiano/Getty Images)

Late in her Wednesday show at the Rock & Roll Hotel, Nicole Atkins asked the crowd to mimic her as she made a dramatic sweeping-arms gesture, of the sort Pavarotti would do closing out an aria. The fans followed Atkins's request, of course, which made the 32-year-old Jerseyite chuckle and apologize for abusing her powers of persuasion.

But there actually were all sorts of operatic tones to much of the pop that Atkins and her backing trio delivered in an enthralling 75-minute set. Atkins's talents are much more obvious live than on record; her voice was almost too big for the room. She soared to divalike altitudes while crooning and re-crooning the money line ("They are no match for me") of her opening tune, "Heavy Boots," and again throughout the wondrous "The Way It Is," the latter of which would work on the soundtrack of a David Lynch film. And Atkins channeled Patsy Cline while balladeering on the downbeat "Hotel Plaster" and "The Tower."

"Maybe Tonight" and "Party's Over" had the vibes of early-1960s Top 40 singles from Phil Spector's girl-groups catalogue. The crowd, without prompting, pumped fists and chanted in all the right places on Atkins's anthemic ode to the joy of Independence Day fireworks, "Brooklyn's on Fire!" She and her band showed a bent for electrified country blues on "My Baby Don't Lie," from her latest CD, "Mondo Amore."

Atkins ended the night with a solo cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying," a tune as dramatic as any song not written centuries ago in Italian can be. She nailed every note, and with such swagger that another one of those Pavarottiesque arm gestures - this time without irony - would have been fitting. Brava!

By Dave McKenna  | March 10, 2011; 11:00 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Nicole Atkins  
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