Photo by Jim Rinaldi
Grace Potter has inarguably transformed her appearance and musical style over the past few years. In the spring of 2005, Potter (along with her backing band, The Nocturnals) independently released her debut album, Nothing But The Water. Not long after, GP&N signed to Hollywood Records, which released the band’s sophomore effort, This Is Somewhere. The success of the album encouraged Potter to refashion GP&N’s image. With the help of producer Mark Batson (Dave Matthews Band, Eminem, Alicia Keys) she released her most recent album, which was self-titled as a declaration of the band’s new look and musical style. Grace Potter quickly went from a bohemian brunette to a blond-bombshell frontwoman, whose sexy vocals would elicit a double-take from even the most fervent listener. Grace Potter And The Nocturnals is, at its finest, a basic pop-rock record that thrives on simplicity and fun musical arrangements. Some dedicated GP&N fans might be quick to dismiss the album as a weak attempt at selling out; however, Grace Potter’s performance at Electric Factory on Friday night proved that she has no intention of abandoning her rock-and-roll roots.
To open the show, Grace belted out “Stop The Bus,” with a Flying V accompanying her screaming vocals. Energy quickly overcame the initially reserved crowd as people shouted lyrics and danced with neighboring attendees. Seamlessly progressing from one song to the next, the members of GP&N wailed on their instruments. During “Joey,” Grace finally took a seat behind her staple Hammond organ; she didn’t stay still for long though, as the following songs prompted provocative dancing and instrumental jams that lasted until the soft ballad “Apologies” (which gave the audience and GP&N a much-needed break). Her somber vocals briefly drenched the venue in a melodic haze, but the rocking quickly returned in the form of “One Short Night.”
Strings of bulbs and spotlights set the theme for “Tiny Light”; the song was transformed from a simple XM radio hit to an epic rock hit, supported by intermittent screaming and heavy breathing. A few songs later, concertgoers received a pleasant surprise: GP&N covered Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and the performance was a psychedelic journey that would have made Grace Slick proud. The Nocturnals left the stage as Grace sang a solo, a cappella version of “Nothing But The Water (I).” Then they rejoined her for a loud, impassioned performance of “Nothing But The Water (II).” GP&N rounded out the set with the over-the-top single, “Paris (Ooh La La).” GP&N then returned to play three more songs, ending with “Medicine”, which is easily the best and most seductive track off the new album.
Hollywood Records clearly recognized a star and a diva the rock world could embrace. Grace Potter might be a great musician, but she is an even better performer. Her made-over image seems to compliment her talent and live shows, which harken back to those of ’60s and ’70s rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Fleetwood Mac. Grace’s performances have subsumed the sex appeal and indulgent musical expression of those predecessors. Anyone interested in GP&N should definitely invest in its 2011 Live At The Filmore album; those are the only recordings that might do the current incarnation of the band justice. —Caitlyn Grabenstein
[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post inaccurately identified T-Bone Burnett as the producer of Grace Potter And The Nocturnals. The album was produced by Mark Batson.]