It’s been four years between Nikka Costa’s “Everybody’s Got Their Something” and the just-released “Can’tneverdidnothin’ ” (both Virgin), but there was absolutely no evidence of rust or timidity in her volcanic perf at the Roxy last week.
Costa offered a leaner, more hard-edged version of her rock/funk fusion — the percolating keyboards and horns replaced by taut, bluesy electric guitar riffs and grinding synthesizers. In a kinetic, whip-smart hour (plus a three-song encore), she presents herself as a soul shouter in the footsteps of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner, with James Brown, Robert Plant and Chaka Kahn bringing up the rear.
During “Tug of War,” Costa rewrote the chorus, moaning, “Let me out of this heat,” but you knew she was being coy. After all, the club had turned into a unair-conditioned sweatbox at her request, and the diminutive warbler comes off as an erotic volcano, a woman of voracious and unapologetic appetites who raises the temperature of any room she plays. Her shirt open down to her navel, she thrusts her hips and grinds against the mic stand lasciviously, her wild eyes framed by untamed crimson curls.
“Till I Get to You,” the show’s opener, alphabetically recounts her sexual history to let her lover know that this time it’s real; she leads the aud in a chant of “you’re a ho” before gleefully replying, “No I’m not” and kicking the song into an orgasmic double-time coda. “Swing It Around,” the tale of a less-than-smooth lothario, lustily struts its stuff, begging the man to “gimme something I can work with here.”
And in case you missed the point, she encores with a cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Funkier Than a Mosquita’s Tweeter” that can hold its own beside the original. Starting out as an Indian raga, Costa’s version is equipped with a slow fuse, finally erupting into a joyous shout.
Four years is too long to wait for another taste; here’s hoping Costa sticks around this time.