It is impossible to write a review without talking about the joy and newness of being back in a crowd of people sharing live music together. As this was the first concert back for many people, all of the things you are thinking absolutely apply – it was special, felt a little weird, felt a little normal again, and regardless of who you saw or what you ate, it felt good to be out again and moving about the world. Those sentiments were palpable throughout the audience and throughout Grace Potter’s performance at Suneagles Golf Club in Eatontown, NJ on July 10th.
Now, about the concert itself. The first surprise came as you walked in. The stage was set in a tight circle with a Wurlitzer accompanied by 4 guitar stands holding 2 acoustic guitars and 2 flying V’s. It became clear that this would be a solo gig. Now, this author has seen many Grace Potter shows, but has never seen her solo, nor has seen her without her signature Hammond B3: it was both exciting and disappointing at the same time.
When Potter took the stage promptly at the 7:30 time the show was advertised for, she immediately established a rapport with the crowd. A John Cale song came across the PA and she boogied over to her instrument circle wearing orange high-heeled sandals, a black leather miniskirt and a multi-colored cape. She grabbed an acoustic guitar and started in with her version of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” and then moved into her song “Ah Mary.” Both were solid renditions; played well and sung beautifully, but her backing band was sorely missed.
From here on, she declared the show her Raunchy Second Set (alluding to the tamer set she played the night before). The show became a game of “Rock & Roll Strip Karaoke” in which she laid down the following rules: The audience can request any song, if she can get through one verse and one chorus “professionally” the audience has to take off an item of clothing, if she can’t, she will take one-off.
The crowd took up the challenge immediately which led to her doing covers including: “I’ll Take You There,” (Staples Singers) “Oo-De-Lally” (Roger Miller), “Hot In Here” (Nelly), “The Weight”(The Band), “Atlantic City,”(Bruce Springsteen), “Ventura Highway,” “A Horse With No Name,”(America) Friend of the Devil (with a secret verse Bob Weir taught her), “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC), Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin), Wildflowers (Tom Petty) and many more.
This jukebox portion was a nice surprise as Potter clearly demonstrated her passion for music of any kind and the fluency in which a song started in her head and came out effortlessly through her fingers on the fretboard of a guitar or the keyboard of the Wurlitzer. It was awe-inspiring to see a pretty big-name performer tune by ear, react spontaneously to a group of music lovers, and tie it together with her powerful and sultry voice.
The show took a turn away from the covers when a young girl (about 5) was brought up to the stage and requested “Release,” which her parents explained was her favorite song to sing along to at home. Potter sat back down at the Wurlitzer and delivered an emotive rendition of the song that was appreciated by everyone in the tent. All in all, she played about eight of her own songs, including the rarely played “Toothbrush and My Table.” Although some people may have left the venue feeling that they would have preferred a full-band show, no one felt the least bit cheated.
Photos by Nancy Lasher