Anyone who thought Grace Potter’s pop rock album Midnight meant that Potter had gone soft was proved wrong on Sunday night at Orlando’s House of Blues. Backed by her new band the Magical Midnight Roadshow, Potter delivered an intense 2-hour set that deftly combined new and older songs from her catalog.
Throughout the show, Potter seamlessly transitioned between the sultry crooner of her current material and the gritty rocker persona associated with her work with the Nocturnals. “Forgive me if I’m not myself tonight; my body’s in a battle with my mind,” she sang in the show-opening “Hot to the Touch,” strutting onto the stage in painted-on disco pants and a majestic shawl. A couple songs later, Potter strapped on her signature Flying V guitar and powered through rock anthem “Ah Mary,” her voice snarling over the distortion.
Though the band is quite full – featuring two drummers and as many as three guitarists at any time – two of the show’s best moments were from duos. Potter and guitarist Benny Yurco played a stripped-down version of “Low Road” that was a welcome respite from the prior histrionics. Conversely, Potter and drummer Matt Burr ratcheted up the intensity in “Nothing But the Water I.” Normally an a-cappella hymn, Burr bludgeoned the drum kit while Potter howled about redemption in between heavy riffing. The rest of the band then joined them for a more traditional southern rock rendition of the song’s second part, “Nothing But the Water II.”
Though Potter glided between the two worlds, Nocturnals songs were the clear crowd favorites, the bulk of which came from 2012’s The Lion The Beast The Beat. That album’s epic title track closed the regular set, its dynamic shifts in tempo and volume providing the perfect exclamation point for an eclectic set. For the encore, Potter walked back onstage alone, acoustic guitar in hand. In tribute to Prince, she played a barely recognizable version of “When Doves Cry,” singing at half-speed while wringing every ounce of emotion from the vocals. The song then transitioned into the power ballad “Stars” with the Magical Midnight Roadshow again taking the stage.
In another highlight, Potter and company followed the tenderness of “Stars” with one of the Nocturnals’ most grandiose rockers, “The Divide.” With its dirty riff and dueling guitars that soar alongside Potter’s booming voice, it was the perfect penultimate song, the raw, energetic performance bringing the crowd to a frenzy in time to end with the obvious closer “Paris (Ooh La La),” Potter’s biggest hit.
Potter’s fondness for experimentation means no one can know what the future of her music will be like, either solo or with the Nocturnals. One thing that is certain, though: Grace Potter has not lost her edge.