This is the challenge that Nik West faces. She has performed with every musician, from Prince to Steven Tyler to John Mayer. She is in high demand among other musicians. But she has had limited commercial success as a solo artist. Wednesday night at City Winery in Chicago's West Loop, West delivered an excellent performance for two hours in front of an audience that barely half-filled the hall.
The sparse crowd did not dampen her enthusiasm. For two hours, she entertained with singing, musicianship, and dancing. She has a fine voice, but her special talent is the bass guitar, which she showed off repeatedly. The music ranged from R&B to rock to blues. But it was her bass-slapping funk music that drew the loudest cheers.
She mixed originals with covers of songs by Sly and the Family Stone ("Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin"), Tiny Turner ("Proud Mary"), and Prince ("Kiss"). She told the story of Prince inviting her to jam at his Paisley Park studio, where he encouraged her and her talent.
Four others joined Nik on stage, including a frenetic drummer and a keyboardist, who made his instrument sound like a horn section.
Together, they played a funky set for almost two hours. The crowd did not get bigger, but they left happy.