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.