Grace Potter – At the Orange Peel – October 13, 2015
Grace Potter stopped the tour bus outside the Orange Peel in Asheville to deliver two nights of rock and roll to the North Carolina mountain town’s masses this past week.
Even if you’re a fan of Potter’s music it’s possible you may have not been aware that this time around she’s out promoting her first solo effort sans the Nocturnals the pop, groove and even dance oriented Midnight.
Sonically Midnight is quite a divergence from the more jam band oriented sound of the Nocturnals earlier efforts and even from the more rock radio friendly 2012’s The Lion the Beast the Beat, thus it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Potter has made changes to the band’s line up for this tour’s cycle as well.
Gone are original Nocturnal guitarist Scott Tournet, as well as Asheville resident and recent bassist for the Nocturnals, Michael Libramento. These fine musicians have been replaced by Ben Alleman (guitar/keys), Tim Deaux (Bass), Eliza Jones (keys) and Daiki Hirano (percussion).
I’m guessing that these line up alterations are in large part are a reflection of Potter’s desire to bring a different sound and feel to her live shows that is more closely aligned with the direction of the new material.
Original Nocturnals drummer Matt Burr is still behind the kit as is long time guitar player Benny Yurco. It’s the latter in Yurco where as any fan of Potter’s live shows over the past decade you are forced to take notice of.
In the past Tournet would often take most of the leads on the monster solos embedded within live versions of Nocturnals set staples such as “Stop of the Bus” and the “Divide.” So one of the questions one would have to ask of Potter’s current live production is Yurco up to the challenge?
Not only has Yurco stepped up to the plate in terms of taking the lead guitar reigns, it seems as though he’s taken it upon himself to up his playing acumen to levels not previously achieved during his traditional role as more of the rhythm guitarist for the Nocturnals.
The new music, the new band members and even old band members taking on new roles have changed Potter’s live shows in a number of ways and her two shows at the Orange Peel earlier this week mirrored those adjustments.
Night one of Potter’s two-night stand at the Orange Peel featured more of the new material including such stand out tracks as, “Alive Tonight”. Although the track, like most of the songs on Midnight, have a more pop and even synth based sound on record, in a live setting these newer efforts pack more old school rock and roll punch than one might expect.
The added oomph comes more in the form of the additional keys and percussion elements that are now present in the band that help to create a broader, more diverse and wider sonic wall versus the three headed guitar monster sonic boom helmed by Yurco, Tournet and Potter herself that often dominated her live outings throughout the Nocutrnals years.
Night two of Potter’s Asheville residency felt much closer to an old school original Nocturnals show as the performance was highlighted not only by a bit more of Potter’s old material being inserted into the set list but by the sheer rock n roll energy the band was breathing from the stage and into the audience all night long.
That being said there is not a single member in attendance that wouldn’t agree that the highlight of the show was guitar and Asheville legend Warren Haynes joining forces with Potter for a few numbers.
Haynes and Potter took took to the Peel’s stage as a duo to perform a transcendent version of a song the two have performed together previously with Potter sitting in with Hayne’s Gov’t Mule, Fleetwood Mac’s, “Gold Dust Woman.”
The rest of Potter’s band returned to see Haynes take the lead on a blistering take of the Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter” that saw Haynes and Yurco at one point going blow for blow on guitar.
It’s understandable that many of Potter’s traditional fan base may initially have a bit of hard time embracing her new material because without question Midnight is in a no shape or form close to sounding like anything the Nocturnals ever produced in the studio and to be honest, I think that very well may have been Potter’s intent.
For a band that not only prides itself on its live performances but actually built its fan base off of them the one question regardless of the direction of the new material and lineup changes has to be asked, is Potter still capable of delivering where it matters most, under the lights and on the stage?
My response is really two fold as one, without question Potter and her current band deliver all the big moments you’ve come to expect of them with a level of musicianship, energy and sheer joy any band would hope to be able to achieve.
The second part of my response is much more simple, go see for yourself, I not only assure you won’t be disappointed; I’ll guaranty it*
*restrictions may apply, specifically your ability to recognize sublimely talented musicians melting your face off.