When I mentioned to a number of people that I was going to see Nikka Costa at The Hamilton in DC, I got the exact same response..."Nikka, Who?" (ironically, an actual Nikka Costa song title)
With the likes of Katy Perry, Rihanna, and whomever the latest Disney Channel alum is littering the Top 10, it’s expected that the average person wouldn’t know Nikka Costa. They should.
I made the mistake of explaining to these same people that “Nikka is sort of the female equivalent of Lenny Kravitz.”
The Kravitz comparison is selling Costa short. A better description might be: Walk into your Rock & Roll Kitchen and throw the aforementioned Mr. Kravitz, Sly Stone, Prince, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, and a dash of ‘70s vintage Robert Plant and Mick Jagger all into one sexy-ass cauldron and what would you get? Honeybabysweetiedoll – Nikka Costa!
Backed by a five-piece band, Hurricane Nikka roared onstage in a blur of hair, double-sided tape, disco-era gold lamé pants, knee-high boots, and moves worthy of the Soul Train Dance Line to a cover of Sly’s Dance To The Music. The funk pace rarely dissipated as she ran through hits as well as lesser known songs ranging from Like A Feather to Keep Pushin’ to Everybody Got Their Something to Nylon’s In A Rip to Loving You to Head First. Straying from previous tours, this time around, Costa eschewed the rock of numbers like On And On in favor of single-minded funk.
Coming to this show on the heels of a number of arena shows, I was absolutely steamrolled by the explosive energy onstage just 15 feet away. This wasn’t arena-rock posturing. This wasn’t pseudo-funk by virtue of a calculated minor-seventh chord. There wasn’t any question of whether that’s really her voice, or if they’re using backing tracks. This was funk, this was rock & roll the way it was meant to be played.
If you come to a Nikka Costa party, you better be ready to party. Costa made it clear very early on in the set that if you were the DC douchebag or baguette who was going to spend the entire evening ignoring the music but texting your friends about what a great time you were having, you were going to get called out individually. Call them out, she did. Costa made sure the groove was not confined to the stage, as she demanded that the dinner theater audience participate in the full-contact funk.
To talk about this show and not mention Costa’s band would be criminal. This band unabashedly channels The Family Stone and The Godfather of Soul’s JBs – and succeeds. Most notable was trombonist Elizabeth Lea – Maceo Parker would be proud.
If you ever get the chance, experience Nikka Costa…and leave your cell phone at home (trust me, you’re not that important!).