Like any good music festival, XPoNential requires stamina for those dedicated enough to take it in from top to bottom, front to back. This year was no exception, but those who stuck around to catch the closing night SBC show headlined by Grace Potter and George Ezra were in for a treat. Both performers were totally captivating and engaging, but in different ways – Ezra putting on the storytelling charm and crafting intimate moments with just his voice and guitar, Potter getting all in-your-face with a big and bold six-piece band.
The latter made a huge entrance to her 2007 hit “Ah Mary” from This Is Somewhere. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen her, as she alluded to in her between-song banter, but she hasn’t missed a beat as a performer – her voice is powerful as ever, she charismatically catapults herself from one side of the stage to the other with the same energy we saw from her at her last XPNFest appearance in 2010. Sometimes she’s jamming on a flying V, sometimes on an acoustic, sometimes on a Rhodes and sometimes she’s just dancing, but in any case she’s a force of nature commands the crowd’s attention.
The set hit “Empty Heart” early on – one of the songs she debuted on the air with Dan Reed last month – saying “you heard it acoustic, do you want to hear the full-band treatment?” She also pulled from 2010’s self-titled record for “Medicine” and a duo performance of “Low Road” with guitarist Benny Yurco. She also reminisced about early support she received from WXPN. “It was one of the first stations to believe in me,” she said. “I still remember getting a call from a friend who lived in Philly saying ‘I keep hearing your song “Toothbrush and my Table” on the radio!'”
The set also featured a rambling drum circle-esque jam and a nod to Potter’s recent time on the road with the Rolling Stones via a cover of “Gimmie Shelter.”
By contrast, the 22-year-old Ezra was a bit more subdued, but tightly focused. The UK singer-songwriter has a tremendous baritone voice and a sly grin that makes the ladies in the crowd swoon, but he’s also a gifted pop composer and storytelling lyricist.
Performing with a three-piece band as well as taking much of the set solo, he referred a lot to a month of travels across Europe that resulted in the songs on his album debut Wanted on Voyage – his hit “Budapest” came in the wake of missing a train ride to Hungary, while “Barcelona” did emerge from eastern coast of Spain.
Ezra’s hit single”Blame It On Me” was a lively singalong, while covers of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and Macy Gray’s “I Try” fit into the set nicely. Later, the more serious and somber “Did You Hear The Rain” dramatically closed the set, hinting at what Ezra is capable of should he decide to leave playful romantic pop behind.
Proceedings opened up with Americana and Alt-Country man, who treated early comers to a mix of tunes, some from his first album Feathers & Fishhooks and some from his upcoming LP Imaginary Man, out August 14th. While Rayland’s set started off slowly and quietly, he grew into his own by the third song, dancing around the stage and taking guitar solos liberally, dueling with his lead guitarist more than once.
Next up to the plate were The Wailers, one reggae band for the ages. In Bob Marley’s absence, the band was led by bass player Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who had no trouble anchoring the group. Although the group was quick to pay tribute to Bob Marley, The Wailers were extremely talented in their own right, getting the crowd singing along to “No Woman No Cry,” “Buffalo Soldiers” and a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” among many others.
Check out photos from the grand finale of XPNFest 2015 below, and don’t miss any of this year’s festival coverage here.
George Ezra setlist
LIsten to the Man
Girl From NC
Leaving it Up
Blame it on Me
I Try (Macy Gray cover)
Did You Hear the Rain
Grace Potter setlist
Never Go Back
Look What We’ve Become
Nothing but the Water
Hot Summer Night
The Lion The Beast The Beat
Gimme Shelter (The Rolling Stones cover)
Paris (Ooh La La) / Alive Tonight / Not Fade Away / Paris
George Ezra, Grace Potter, Rayland Baxter, The Wailers, xponential music festival 2015