Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by: Joe Russo
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals :: 11.17.12 :: Beacon Theatre :: New York, NY
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At the Beacon Theatre on a bustling and chilly Saturday night in November, Grace Potter, only 29 years old, again proved she is one of the most prolific frontwomen in music today. Having formed the band in 2002 while attending St. Lawrence University, musical and life couple, Grace Potter (vocals, guitar, Hammond B3) and Matt Burr (drums), as well as Scott Tournet (guitar), later enlisted Benny Yurco (guitar) and Michael Libramento (guitar) to comprise the rest of the Nocturnals. Grace described the band, “If Led Zeppelin came out today and were fronted by Dusty Springfield, they’d sound something like Grace Potter & the Nocturnals."
|Grace Potter by Joe Russo|
After 8 years touring, only years removed from opening for acts like Dave Matthews Band and The Black Crowes, the ascending group set off the 2nd night of sold-out shows at the nearly 3,000 capacity theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan like bulls that had just been unleashed at Pamplona. As Burr pummeled his drums with his signature authority, arguably the band's most popular song had begun. Lured in like a Star Wars tractor beam into the frenetic energy emanating from Potter, clad in a demure yet sexy shot black dress, the entranced crowd heard a mind-bending "Medicine".
The heavy guitar-driven bluesy rock and roll outfit, veterans of a plethora of festival appearances including Bonnaroo, Hang Out and Floyd, continued with a variety of old favorites and a slew of material from the new album The Lion The Beast The Beat, which dropped in June. For nearly 2 hours, genre-jumping and tempo changes proved a strong asset to the band as it segued from a slew of slower soulful tunes to toe-tapping rocking ones. One should also take note of new bassist, Michael Libramento, who plays it upside down and left-handed. Although nothing can overshadow the undeniable songwriting skill of Potter, who maintains her stature as a multi-threat, with her prowess behind the mic and the Hammond B3, complete with model-like aesthetics and her commanding stage confidence.
|Grace Potter by Joe Russo|
Led by multi-instrumentalist Potter, who if Grace was not her born moniker, it would be a most apropos nickname, the quintet has been on a recent role; Potter took the stage with Bob Weir and Trey Anastasio in September at the 2nd show at the re-opened Capitol Theatre, performed a free CD release show at Irving Plaza in June, collaborated on stage with country crooner Kenny Chesney, and shared an exquisite "I'll Shall Be Released" at the Love for Levon Benefit only two months ago. Her style is reminiscent of an iconic 70's Stevie Nicks, but her voice remains a unique amalgam of the sweet nuance of Edie Brickell and the sexy hoarseness of Kim Carnes. Ever evolving with her music, Potter was once that woman who used her Hammond B3 as a shield, and now emerges as an energetic lioness that pounced the stage and provided yet another spark to the show. Loyal fans know the calculated change she has made from the hippie styled wide-eyed singer/songwriter from just a few years ago into the polished and classy fashionista she has become. Sex appeal sells records, but unlike some other pop acts, Potter pulls it off because her talent consistently trumps more shallow enticements.
To conclude the main set, just before the encores, Potter exclaimed an aside to the audience when dedicating the next song to Hurricane victims, "Slutty Sandy....that bitch!" The highlight of the evening then unfolded as Mr. Warren Haynes waltzed onstage for an unexpected rousing cover rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" that enthralled the audience with seemingly everyone holding a videophone to capture the special moment. Warren's night was through, but to the surprise of many, the band began to play as their 2nd encore, the faintly familiar chords that many soon recognized as a cover of Soundgarden's opus, "Black Hole Sun." The intensity of the jam grew to such an extent that the scene turned into a modern "Head Banger's Ball", with each member of the band bobbing heads back and forth and whipping long flowing locks of hair to follow each dynamic thrust.
|Grace Potter and the Nocturnals by Joe Russo|
They delivered an exquisite and always barn-burning "Nothing But the Water II" (on which every member of the band eventually were concurrently playing the drums) a fast-paced, all-out pleasure fest which always satiates any jam fan and remains arguably their most commercially viable track. Finally, the fourth encore was a cover of Heart's "Crazy on You." One may find this somewhat peculiar, until one is reminded that Grace played with the Wilson sisters at last year's VH1 Divas concert. As the old school 70's classic started to fade, each band member left to stage left and waved goodbye in an almost unwitting homage to The Sound of Music's "So Long Farewell."
Ultimately, Grace summed up in song the reason why so many ardent fans were satisfied after another lengthy and majestic set of stellar music, "I have the medicine that everybody wants." If the medicine she is referring to is music, the crowd was left very grateful she makes house calls to the Beacon Theater.
Setlist: Medicine, Hot Summer Night, Oasis, Falling Or Flying, Treat Me Right, Tiny Light, Stop The Bus, The Lion The Beast The Beat, Paris (Ooh La La), Gimme Shelter*, Encore: Stars, Black Hole Sun, Nothing But the Water I, Nothing But the Water II , Crazy on You *with Warren Haynes
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