Words by: Bradley Darby
Photos by Bradley Darby & Music VS Man
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (commonly referred to as GPN) have received quite a bit of publicity lately, and for good reason. Their newest self-titled album made many Best Of 2010 lists, they stole the show last month at the VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, a show that also featured Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Keri Hilson, Paramore and Sugarland. Not to mention their cover of the Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit” that appeared on the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack, as well as vocalist and front woman Grace Potter performing a solo track for the soundtrack to Tangled, and a guest spot on mega country star Kenny Chesney’s new album. It seemed as though 2010 was going to be the ultimate year for GPN.
After a stop at The Pageant on Friday, January 14th I think it is safe to say things are just beginning for this quintet from Vermont.
The stop in St. Louis marked only the second show of the 20 date tour featuring Chamberlin as the support group, also from Vermont. Chamberlin consisted of five members as well including two guitars, a bassist, drummer and keyboards/percussion. They weren’t terrible, I rather enjoyed them, and they played for about 40-45 minutes. There were a few songs that sounded recognizable, though I did not catch the name of any other than “Dirt” which is available as a free download on their website. Could have enjoyed them a bit more but we were positioned near the bar and there was a crowd of annoying assholes next to us that chose to talk about Labradoodles and secret handshakes instead of enjoying the music.
After about a 30 minute break, it was time for the main event, Miss Southern Rock-Jam Band Diva, Grace Potter and her band of night loving men (and a woman). Grace is only 27 but sings with the heart and emotion of a rock and roll veteran. She can also be found jamming out on her B3 Harmon or wailing on her flying V or acoustic guitar. In my book she is a bluesy-rock goddess, one of the best female vocalists and one of the best song writers out there. Not to mention easy on the eyes.
(Photo from VH1 Divas)
Her backing band, the Nocturnals are nothing to be ashamed of either. Consisting of Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco on guitars, including 12 string and slide, Catherine Popper on bass, and Matt Burr on drums, the Nocturnals not only rock some of the best facial hair in the game (minus Cat of course) but can wail on their respective instruments. The current lineup of the Nocturnals has been together since the beginning in 2002, with the exception of Cat Popper who joined the band in 2009 after a stint playing with Ryan Adams backing band, the Cardinals.
Last time GPN was in town they opened for the Avett Brothers in September and played a pretty strict, yet solid set. But this time they had free reign, and it showed. The band was jamming out and seemed very loose, to be expected, as they have come up through the jam band circuit opening for Gov’t Mule, Black Crowes, Dave Matthews Band and playing Neil Youngs classic “Cortez the Killer” with Steve Kimock, Joe Satriani, Reed Mathis and others at the 2006 Jammy Awards. Not to mention highly regarded sets at Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, and Mile High Music Festival. It was nice to see that success is not letting this band get away from their roots.
The set opened with “Ah Mary” from 2007’s This Is Somewhere. In the next two hours they tore through a 16 song set list that included many songs from 2010s Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, but also material spanning the last nine years of this bands great, but young career. During “Colors” from the self titled album released last year, Grace told the crowd that this city held a special place in her heart because she had written the song in 2008 while at the St. Louis Zoo when their tour bus broke down at a Holiday Inn in St. Louis. For “Ragged Company” the rhythm section was excused while we were treated to a stripped down acoustic version of the song. As Matt and Cat came back out to join their band mates, guitarist Scott Tournet stepped up to the mic to assist on vocals for Potter and Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila.” As the set was winding down Grace reached for her flying V guitar one more time for back to back rockers “Sugar” and her current hit single, “Paris.”
Earlier in the day, via Twitter, Grace had asked for requests for the show and I immediately replied with “Nothing But The Water”, one of my personal favorite GPN songs. Well when Grace Potter stepped up to the mic with no guitar and started in on the vocal solo that starts the song, coincidence or not, it was pure bliss. After a chilling 2 minute intro, she grabbed her guitar and finished what is known as Part 1 of the song. Potter then went back to the Hammond B3 and led the band on a fourteen minute epic journey that very well may have transcended space and time. The set ended after each member was introduced to the crowd to a thunderous applause.
A brief encore break followed, and out came Benny Yurco to play a beautiful Zeppelin-esq acoustic intro. Then back came the rest of the band for a cover of Hearts “Crazy on You,” made famous at the VH1 Divas Salute the Troops special last month. “Big White Gate” followed and the night was closed out with “Medicine”, a fantastic selection as it is one of the bands favorite songs to play live, is full of energy and it could leave any room in a great mood.
Whatever it was she was feeding The Pageant on this Friday night was working, and she definitely had the medicine that everybody wanted. This was my first show of 2011, and I cant think of a better way to start off the year to be honest with you. Grace Potter is going to do great things in the next few years, and the next stop on her journey for me will be at the Wakarusa Music Festival, June 2-5 in Ozark, Arkansas where GPN will be performing with My Morning Jacket, Ben Harper and Relentless 7, Umphreys McGee, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Mumford and Sons, STS9, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and about 100 other bands.
- Ah Mary – 2007 – This Is Somewhere
- Only Love – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Joey – 2005 – Nothing But the Water
- Money – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Oasis – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Hot Summer Night – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- One Short Night – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Ragged Company – 2005 – Nothing But the Water
- You and Tequila – 2010 – Kenny Chesneys ‘Hemingway’s Whiskey’
- Tiny Light – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Sugar – 2009 – Live in Skowhegan
- Paris – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Nothing But The Water – 2005 – Nothing But the Water
- E: Crazy on You -Heart
- E: Big White Gate – 2007 – This Is Somewhere
- E: Medicine – 2009 – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals