Review: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

It may be safe to assume that the plaid flannels and jeans that may have marked the Vermonters’ early days are now safely stored away. In line with the rose festooned mike stands, the band now dresses boho-chic and Potter’s selection of mini-dresses and gowns rival the most glamorous of divas. It’s a visual style that perfectly suits Potter, even if no amount of glitz will ever camouflage her winsome personality or girl-next-door approachability. Nonetheless, Potter exudes a rock star aura with every charismatic fiber of her being; she can embody every bit of Tina Turner’s unbridled soul as well as Mick Jagger’s provocative cocksure confidence. Throughout the night, Potter had Webster Hall in her thrall: grooving to the music with her array of go-go girl dance moves, vamping it up with her Gibson Flying V on Paris, wailing on the Hammond during Big White Gate or awing Webster Hall into silence with the a capella opening to Nothing But The Water.

Potter may be the name above the ampersand but first and foremost, GPN has always been a group . . . and a particularly phenomenal one at that. Since joining the band approximately one year ago, Popper and Yurco have profoundly influenced the band, their present sound owing no small debt to their presence. Very few bands that can deftly pull off the lilting reggae of Goodbye Kiss can also generate the disco-quick, driving rhythm of Only Love. Yurco may not get the same number of opportunities to let loose like he does as part of Tournet’s Blues & Lasers, the band that provided his entrée to GPN, but he opens up the number of things that they can do on stage. For That Phone, he handled lead while Tournet moved up to the drum kit with Matt Burr, adding percussion that transformed the bouncy tune into a weighty rocker and on Oasis and Tiny Light, he and Tournet take Potter’s moderately paced tracks into a psychedelic descent of scrawling guitars.

Over the course of their nearly two hour set, Potter & The Nocturnals tore through much of their new album, the songs finding an extraordinary vitality in the live setting. It will surprise anyone who thinks the self-titled release lacks the proper heart or represents some sort of Faustian bargain. Rounding out the night, Potter gracefully howled through their cover of the Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and led the band through a smoldering cover of Heart Of Glass, removing the coke-addled disco buzz from the Blondie classic and discovering its yearning soul. In going back to the beginning, GPN finished up their first encore with Nothing But The Water, a song that’s evolved from a gospel tinged mission statement into a festival-worthy jam vehicle and now a staple that anchors every set that, for the time being, now finishes with a distinctively Southern, somewhat Skynyrdish flair.

It’s only a matter of time before Grace Potter & The Nocturnals reach the tipping point. The day when we speak reverently of the small places we once saw GPN may be soon approaching. This type of rock and roll has never been content to remain a niche product.

Set List: Medicine, Sweet Hands, Oasis, Apologies, Only Love, Goodbye Kiss, That Phone, One Short Night, Tiny Light, Big White Gate, Ah Mary, Hot Summer, Heart of Glass (Blondie cover), Paris

Encore: Watching You, White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane cover), Nothing but the Water

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