Nikki Hicks, whose soul-inspiring style is like Aretha Franklin crossed with India Arie, will reminisce in song on Saturday in the Forvm with her band Momma’s Biscuits, two opening acts and a special appearance by her alter ego “Mother Pearl Wisdom.”
The comic character, who Hicks invented 22 years ago, is “the grandma everybody wants” and wears a hat and a good dress to perform as master of ceremonies. “She is a modern day Sunday church lady who knows how to give guidance without insulting,” said Hicks. “I’m using her as my teacher to teach the kids about old-school music. Good music.”
In an evening designed to celebrate old-fashioned song, Mother Wisdom will introduce two local singers: “brand-new-to-the-scene” Marvis Tayon and David Vaughn will open the show with vintage Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and Bob Marley.
When it’s her turn, Hicks will appear as her usual 43-year-old self and sing favorites from the past and near present: Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Jocelyn Brown, Jackie Wilson’s 1963 “Baby Workout” and Dietrick Haddon’s 2005 gospel song, “God Didn’t Give Up.”
When she was in her 20s, Hicks’ powerful, electric voice led her to victory at the Harlem’s Apollo Theater three times. She traveled the world entertaining the troops and touring with local bands like Animal Planet. After six wins as best R&B Female Vocalist she landed in the Buffalo Music Awards Hall of Achievement five years ago.
For Hicks, who studied to become a nurse after launching her singing career as a young woman, this is a rare public performance. She spends most work days assessing data for BlueCross BlueShield or looking after babies with tracheostomies and gastrotomy tubes.
Yet music remains her transcendent passion. Once a year for the last five years, she does a big annual show and her audience swells to a few hundred.
“The last time I was there, the manager’s brother danced all night long,” said Hicks of last year’s Forvm show. He told her he had to go to the chiropractor the next day. “That’s what music does.”