Grace Potter: Some Things Change and Some Things Stay the Same
Grace Potter at Grand Point North – Burlington, VT – September 12, 2015 – Photo Courtesy of Robert Forte – 40_Photography
Not unlike many musicians Grace Potter’s ascendancy to super stardom may seem to have blossomed over night, however, the reality is the mistress of the magical midnight road show began paying her dues to the rock & roll gods over a decade ago.
Long before sharing the stage with the likes of Mick Jagger or singing duets with Kenny Chesney, Potter and her band the Nocturnals earned their stripes by playing upwards of 200 live shows per year while attempting to literally gig themselves into relevancy.
The band released four studio albums from 2005-2012 including 2010’s self titled Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, which spawned more radio recognizable hits such as “Paris (Ohh La La)” and “Medicine”, as well as the critically well received 2012’s The Lion the Beast the Beat.
The Nocturnals aforementioned last two releases on Hollywood Records began to see the band’s sound sway more toward the mainstream rock pendulum versus the Americana and jam band oriented sound the band had crafted on their earlier releases.
Changes have continued for Potter in 2015 as she’s now touring on her recently released solo record Midnight. Many long time fans of Potter expecting her first effort sans the Nocturnals to be sonically aligned with her past may be in for a bit of a surprise.
Midnight still features, if not showcases, Potter’s powerhouse vocals but the songs and ultimately the sonic palate of the record itself is vastly different than anything the Nocturnals ever churned out.
Midnight has turned up the pop, the synths, the dance beats and the funk in ways that would get most anyone grooving and dancing in the streets. That being the case I’m certainly willing to concede some of Potter’s fans may not immediately connect with the new material.
Potter has been criticized in some rock critic circles as attempting to craft herself into the rock version of Katie Perry. I scoff at this notion and instead choose to believe that Potter is simply a sublimely talented song writer, vocalist and musician that wanted to write songs from a different place and perspective as well as to challenge herself to produce something unfamiliar and well fun. If those were indeed her goals in regards to Midnight, I’d say she knocked them out of the park.
Although the Nocturnals all played on Midnight founding member Scott Tournet as well as most recent Nocturnal bassist Michael Libramento aren’t part of Potter’s current touring band that she’s dubbed the “Magical Midnight Roadshow.”
Long time Nocturnals guitar player Benny Yurco and original drummer Matt Burr are still along for the ride with Yurco proving he’s more than capable of helming the interstellar guitar solos he once shared with Tournet.
Potter’s new touring band additions, Ben Alleman (keys/guitar), Tim Deaux (bass), Daiki Hirano (percussion) and Eliza Jones (keys) seem to have been brought into the fold to accent Midnight’s more pop oriented feel but the result the new band creates live is a much weightier sonic wall that adds punch, albeit in a different form, to any Nocturnal’s classics they attempt to tackle on stage.
Having attended Potter’s Grand Point North music festival last month, now in it’s fifth year, I had the opportunity to see and more importantly hear her new band perform songs from the past as well as cuts off the current record.
Let me attempt to put some of her longtime fans fears to rest and state that above all else Potter has and continues to be a ferocious no holds bar live performer that’s capable of channeling the soul of Janis Joplin, the whimsy and romance of Stevie Nicks and the heart and grit of Chrissy Hynde at any given moment. Potter’s live shows from the beginning of her career have always been a tour de force and I assure you this hasn’t changed in 2015.
The verdict is an easy one as whether it be hard charging rock guitar oriented Nocturnals favorites such as “Stop the Bus” or more recent solo tracks like “Alive Tonight”, Potter and her bandmates both old and new deliver one of the most wildly delirious, exciting and engaging rock and roll shows anyone would be lucky enough to experience first hand.
Should you have the inclination to have your doors blown off musically, to dance, to sing and to connect with one of the greatest female rock performers of our generation, come join me both nights this week at the Orange Peel. I feel supremely confident you’ll be shaking, grooving and smiling from first note to last.
Who: Grace Potter
Where: The Orange Peel / 101 Biltmore Avenue
When: Tuesday October 13th / Wednesday October 14th
Cost: $35 advance / 38 day of show