Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Celebrity Theatre (View the full slideshow.) Thursday, June 6, 2013 Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a band of many talents, combining songs that could have been '70s rock anthems with Potter's powerhouse vocals, exuding blues, country, and pop flair.
The band's musical variety attracted a diverse crowd to the Celebrity Theatre last night, offering a little something for everybody.
Four musicians took the stage before Grace Potter made her grand entrance, decked out in a shimmering white gown and stylish heels that made her look like she was dressed more for the Oscars than a concert. Her attire and body language made it clear why the band isn't just called The Nocturnals--Potter steals the show.
"Somebody has put a '70s filter on the video, '64 to be exact," she said, pointing to the projection of herself above the stage. The '70s influence is undeniable, from the band's lengthy jams and pronounced keyboard parts to the way Potter presents herself. She hits notes like Janis Joplin, commands the stage like Stevie Nicks, and has a noticeable country streak.
The show was off to a rough start, as the band started performing "Turntable" and Potter's vocals cut out. I overheard a tech panicking about the PA not working, and a friend close to the stage insists that he heard backing vocals play while Potter's mic was down. It took the crew a couple songs to get things right, but by the time the band tore into "Goodbye Kiss," the previous difficulties didn't matter.
The band initially stuck to rock songs, mixing things up with piano ballad "Apologies," then veering from the setlist.
"Being on this stage is a lot like being on tour. You close your eyes and you're in a different place. You get used to not quite knowing where you are and not quite knowing what's right," said Potter, introducing "Roulette," a b-side from The Lion, The Beast, The Beat, which sounded like The Nocturnals' pop answer to Fleetwood Mac.
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Instead of "Joey" and "Ah Mary," The Nocturnals covered Otis Redding's "Pain in my Heart." Potter did not identify the song as a cover and most fans seemed unfamiliar with the song. The band usually performs two or three covers a night, but we didn't get to hear a "Seven Nation Army" or "War Pigs." Instead, the band sprinkled a few Bill Withers lyrics into the interlude of "Nothing but the Water."
The band really mixed things up with "Devil's Train," an unreleased track from the forthcoming Lone Ranger soundtrack.
"When I'm driving through Arizona and the southwest in general, I like to look back through history and the fact that we are really in the Wild West," said Potter, remarking on the "dusty old town." For "Devil's Train," The Nocturnals stood in a line and played acoustic guitars, producing a sound that was part classic country and part gospel revival.
Potter explained that the setlist was completely comprised of fan requests, warning that "That Phone" was a challenge that the band had to "bring out of the crypt." Potter showed off her blues chops as fans clapped along to the beat.
The band closed out its main set with "Nothing but the Water" parts one and two. This ten or so minutes of music summed the evening up well. The song started with Potter singing a capella, then playing a few piano keys. The song escalates as the rest of the band joins in, turning it into a full-fledged rock song.
Potter took her shoes off and encouraged fans to dance. "I'm gonna forgive some of you, because you're probably been dancing all night," she said, jumping around the stage and high-fiving fans.
Though it's a popular song, "Stars" was a slow choice for the encore. Things picked up significantly with "Paris (Ooh La La)", as Potter acted as a conductor, prompting fans to sing along to the chorus. The song was extended a bit, as all five band members crowded around the drum kit to play part of it, and remarkably, everyone kept time.
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Setlist: Turntable Only Love Goodbye Kiss Parachute Heart Mastermind Apologies Treat Me Right Roulette Pain in My Heart (Otis Redding cover) Devil's Train That Phone Stop the Bus Tiny Light Nothing but the Water (Parts One and Two)
Encore: Medicine Stars Paris (Ooh La La)
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Celebrity Theatre. Personal Bias: I don't actively listen to GPN, but I enjoyed the band's set at Coachella a couple years ago. The Crowd: Mixed and a bit older than I expected. Overheard in the Crowd: "You've got to leave room for Jesus!" as a girl explained why she had so much space between her and her dancing partner.