R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Never Doubt The Funk

07 OCT 08 DAVID VIENNA

Nikka Costa kicked off her month-long national tour at the El Rey in Los Angeles and, if you ever questioned whether she could bring the funk with the same driving intensity found on her Stax album Pebble To A Pearl, I'm here to tell you: She brought the funk.

With the look of Janis Joplin and the voice that calls to mind the great Stax sirens such as Carla Thomas and Linda Lyndell, Costa and her brick-solid band delivered cuts from Pebble as well as previous releases. Avoiding ballads, she stuck mostly to the purely energetic songs featuring locomotion guitar lines and a downright pounding rhythm section.

The best example of the frenetic feeling was the single "Stuck To You." The thumping beat and piano riff that serves as the song's backbone got the room moving early on, setting the tone for the night. Another stand-out was "Keep Pushin'," during which Costa got the enthusiastic audience to clap along, creating a theater-wide percussion section.

Costa effortlessly translated her album to the stage, leaving behind any possibility the stellar recording was the result of heavy studio work. What I witnessed at the El Rey was a timeless and undeniable force. She (and her band) clearly has the reverence for her predecessors, the energy to move a room and a massive, unstoppable trainload of funk.