I saw Grace Potter & the Nocturnals almost by accident this year. They opened for the Avett Brothers at the Charlottesville Pavilion back on October 17th, in support of their self-titled album, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (released June 08, 2010). I should have known the brothers would attract great talent to their tour, but none of us present, not the college kids, the hipsters, or the parents with their young and eager children, were ready for what Grace Potter and the Nocturnals unleashed upon us.
Grace Potter twirled onto the stage in a blur of gold sequined micro-dress, long legs, and guitars, singing like a fiery amalgam of Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, and Susan Tedeschi. Potter has an incredibly versatile range: she often channeled a rock banshee, with well-placed, melodic screams that sent chills through the crowd. She’s also a multi-instrumentalist, rocking out on the guitar and a Hammond B3 organ, among others.
But the magic she brought to the stage was inextricably linked to her band’s chemistry. Bassist Catherine Popper (of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, another excellent band worth checking out) kept the base lines sensual and hypnotic. Lead guitarist Scott Tournett and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco fed off each other in ways you hope dual-guitarists will, interweaving notes and goading each other further.
The band played tracks from their previous albums, but songs from the new album stood out, especially “Paris (Ooh La La)”s sexy bass and drums, and
“Medicine,” the the last song of their set. The performance underscored how much the band loved performing together: they gathered ’round drummer Matt Burr and beat on his drums, sharing a primal group drum solo the crowd also fell into (enjoy a version of it here).
GPN could have been the headliners for the amount of energy and skill they shared, their stage presence was that dominating. A trip to YouTube will prove to you that their live shows are, across the board, a revelation; their sound gritty, raw, rough, with pulsating base lines, great riffs and hooks, and danceable drumbeats. Even though the lyrics on some of these newer songs are a touch less inspired than previous albums, the music and her voice is always present, powerful, and rousing.
It’s not a surprise that the band is attracting big name attention. Kenny Chesney recently recorded a gorgeous duet with Potter titled, “You and Tequila.” Their voices, in the words of Mr. Chesney, “are perfect together.” You can watch an interview where they discuss their song here. They’ve also been highlighted as VH1′s next “You Oughta Know” artist, and some of their videos are featured on the website:
Good things are happening for this slow-burning band. It took them years to perfect their sound, and it has culminated in this year’s album, which was produced by Mark Batson (of Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Dave Matthews Band fame). He also co-wrote six of thirteen songs on the album.
Many of their old fans would look askance at this pairing, but the band was excited to work with him, and for good reason. The album entered Billboard’s Top 200 at No. 19 and has been garnering rave reviews. They’ve made the talk show circuit recently, including performances of “Paris (Ooh La La)” on Ellen, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. I’m glad they’re sharing their energy and their power with everyone.
Now they just need a live recording that does their performance justice. These shows are so rousing and on point that I’m ruined for the studio version. There is no doubt that the studio album is very good, but it is too polished for me and doesn’t quite convey the raw, bluesy, rock-godliness they bring to the stage. I’m used to bands sounding better on studio recordings than live, so that says a lot. This is a group of musicians you must see in concert. Treat yourself to a show where the band wails away at its rowdy, romping rock, where the execution is perfect and the energy is popping. You’ll leave sated.
Visit their website for their headlining tour dates: www.gracepotter.com.