Nikki Lane - High Noon Saloon Madison WI - photo by Dave Robbins
Madison’s High Noon Saloon just needed a little sawdust on the dancefloor to turn Nikki Lane and Jamie Wyatt’s December 15th gig into a rhinestone-lined honky-tonk heaven. Cowboy hats, leather boots and faded denim filled the bar as the straight-shooting down-to-earth Nikki brought her sinful grins and twinkling side-eye along with a crackerjack band, an up-and-coming opener and of course her beautifully rootsy tunes; sassy, rockabilly vamps and country-punk blasts that scoot, woo and rumble in biographical passion and vintage kinship.
Kicking the night off with three songs from her 2017 album, “Highway Queen,” Lane vaped and sipped from a tin cup, prowling the stage and working up the gumption to let her hair down and talk about her latest album, “Denim and Diamonds.” Nikki bought the domain rights to Denim and Diamonds in a late-night impulse she did not remember until the paperwork came through the next day. Apparently Carrie Underwood used the phrase previously but Nikki informed the audience that Carrie was rich and didn’t need the money like she did.
The tour’s namesake and brand-new Josh Homme produced album, “Denim and Diamond,” dominated the middle portion of the night. The rowdy, “Good Enough,” a powerful, “Try Harder” and crowd-pleasing, “First High,” energized with a combination of catchy melodies, rockin’ honesty and driven riffs led by the amazing Jimmy Teardrop on guitar. Lane’s band revved up both old and new songs plus several excellent covers with raucous off-the-cuff toughness and a tremendous, blended, full head of steam.
Halfway through the set Lane turned solemn and said, “Everyone has some they look up to and for me that’s Lucinda Williams,” before launching into the hard-blues truths inside, “Drunken Angel.” Madison being near the end of the tour, Nikki looked back laughing at losing her voice early on, sleeping in her car before the show and taking on an additional back-up singer who was soliciting advice at a show only to find herself part of the band. Nikki called Madisonians, “Tough Motherfuckers,” for living through these winters and included the city when she talked about what she called the Boomerang States, dependable places she circles in her tour. The love she showed Madison came back to her tenfold.
A road-warrior family vibe ran throughout the cold winter’s night. Lane brought back sensational opener Jamie Wyatt to let it rip on Jessi Colter’s, “Why You Be Gone So Long,” tipping her hat to her bandmates to the point of leaving the stage for a minute while the trio jammed and even kissing one lucky stage hugger. Nikki’s stepdad Martin was in the crowd singing along with everyone else, united by hardships and mishaps encapsulated in early songs, “Right Time,” and, “All or Nothin’,” while Lane’s brazen takes and rambling banter bonded the responsive audience in cemented friendships and collective revelry.
An exuberant, “Jackpot,” closed out the hour plus show, leaving a joyous crowd to scrape off the freshly fallen snow assisted by blistering memories of the hellfire raised only moments ago.