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  • Rich Kassirer

Concert Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the House of Blues 3/25/11

Grace Potter at the House of Blues.
Grace Potter at the House of Blues.

Grace Potter the band has arrived!

This is the third time I’ve seen Grace and the Nocturnals in about a year and a half. Each time I reviewed the shows, I thought I knew what kind of band they wanted to be.

The first, in Nov. 2009 and just after the formation of the new Nocturnals (adding bassist Cat Popper and second guitarist Benny Yurco), I guessed they wanted to be a female-led version of the Allman Brothers.  (Read review HERE.) They had already had their makeover — snazzy short dresses for Grace and Cat, suits for the guys — but for the most part they still seemed to be geared to jam.

The second time they came around, last May, I was sure they wanted to be a bedazzled version of Heart. (Read review HERE) They still jammed but were starting to add a more sharp stage presence, really started to gel as a band. Popper, who stays mostly in the background and plays a solid bass, adds another dimension and a second female voice, which helps the band’s balance (and obviously helps draws some eyes).

So here they are now, post-VH1 Divas show (with Katy Perry and Nicky Minaj!!?!), have dazzled audiences on every late-night talk show out there, and crossed the country spreading the love of Grace.  They are now officially their own band, one that can crank out songs like “Paris” and “Medicine,” equal parts solid pop and mesmerizing jam rock. They are fronted by a woman who twirls like Stevie Nicks and can belt out tunes like Heart’s Ann Wilson.

Last night’s show opened with mostly newer tunes — “Only Love,” “Hot Summer Night” and “Low Road” — with only “Toothbrush & My Table” as the only older song in the first four.  But while “Paris” gets most of the play when the band hits the late-night circuit (and who can blame them, the song is built to kick ass) and is the surefire main-set show closer, Grace & co. gives her past album tunes plenty of space in concert.

“Low Road” led right into “Joey” and had the Friday-night crowd in full lather, singing all the words. It should be noted that it didn’t take too much to get the crowd into it: Blues & Lasers, basically three members of the Nocturnals plus a second drummer and a different bass player, were the openers for the evening and during the break between bands, there was a spontaneous singalong to Bon Jovi’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” as it played on the venue’s sound system.

Other highlights included a wildly pschedelic intro to “Mastermind” and a nice version of “Treat Me Right,” featurning  just Grace, Scott Tournet and Benny, all playing acoustic guitars. That led into a wild flurry of tunes that bled into each other: “Stop the Bus,” “Big White Gate” and the great “Nothing But the Water,” parts 1 (Grace solo) and 2 (the electric band version). By this time Grace was whirling like a Red Bull-fueled Stevie Nicks as she moved seamlessly from her Hammond B3 stage right to center stage strutting around playing her flying V.

After “Why Don’t You Love Me,” the band brought down the house with “Paris.” Scott, who had torn it up all night while playing in both bands, is such a great joy to listen to. He can play tasty or incredibly nasty. On “Paris,” he was downright nasty.

For the encore, Benny came out by himself and played some nifty acoustic for the intro of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” Then the band walked out, or in Grace’s case, skipped, twirled, and jumped (in heels!) out and blew the song out of the water.  [Ed note: Apparently, Grace was pretty ill during the show. Check out the revealing clip from VH1 HERE.] If you thought Ann Wilson could really hit those high notes, well, Grace takes them into the stratosphere. They finished with “Medicine,” which as a pop song is nice on the album. But it something special when it becomes the rocking closer, complete with full-band drum solo in the middle.

It was a  phenomenal way to end the night, and perfectly fitting to what the band is right now — emerging pop stars who can really rock.

The setlist  Only Love Hot Summer Night Toothbrush And My Table Low Road > Joey Mastermind Money > Apologies > Tiny Light Treat Me Right > Stop The Bus > Big White Gate > Nothin’ But The Water Part I > Nothin’ But The Water Part II > Why Don’t You Love Me Paris — Crazy On You > Medicine

For more pics, click HERE

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