Grace Potter & The Nocturnals at the Moore 2009.12.06

It is with all my might that I restrain myself from titling this article “Amazing Grace.” It wouldn’t be so hard if it weren’t so true. Grace Potter commands a stage. In fact, stages were created specifically for Potter to perform on. And you should be glad Deadly Viper Squad member Brittney Bush Bollay was on hand to photograph the performance; not even 1,000 words would do that magenta-sequined mini-dress justice.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are going to be the leading act in Southern Rock shortly, just as soon as the Black Crowes brothers finally call it quits. The Nocturnals have all the right parts assembled: A lead guitarist (Scott Tournet) that can jam out a great solo, throw in some slide when needed, and even strap on a harmonica; a rhythm guitarist (Benny Yurco, complete with long, stringy, Skynyrd-hair) who could easily pick up the lead whenever it was thrown his way; a bassist (Catherine Popper) that knows her place but plays off of the guitarist’s cues to a tee; and a drummer (Matt Burr, also sporting the Skynyrd look) who seemingly was having the time of his life up there while letting the guitars drive the band forward.

But this was clearly the Grace Potter show. The Nocturnals all wore matching black with red-highlight outfits, a uniform of sorts, bringing their level of class a little bit higher than you might expect for a Southern Rock band. Even the bassist’s own sequined mini-dress was black, so as to help her blend in with the rest of the band, all, assumingly, to help drive your attention towards Potter. Not that she needed it — you really couldn’t look away, jaw slack, possibly with a little bit of drool.

Potter would alternate between simply singing and gyrating around the stage, to throwing on a guitar (a flying V, no less) while still singing and gyrating, to singing and playing a Hammond B-3 organ, behind which she had to slow up her gyrating. But only slightly. If I had to pick a single weak moment for the entire show, it’s that the Hammond, complete with Leslie speaker cabinet, wasn’t turned up enough. It sounded anemic, not powerful, as the Hammond B-3 should.

The hour long set ranged the gamut of the GPN discography. They played a few songs from their new record Medicine (produced by T. Bone Burnett — to be released in Spring 2010). “Oasis” could have been a My Morning Jacket song, and was the highlight of the evening for me. “Goodbye Kiss” was a bit too reggae-tinged for my liking, and didn’t seem to really fit the vibe of the rest of the set. And the song the new album is named after was a real doozie, with it’s chorus ringing “I got the medicine that everybody wants,” and which ended with the band gathering around the drumkit for an impromptu drum circle.

And yet the crowd remained in their seats. It’s not that they didn’t like what they were hearing. I just don’t think they were expecting it. Not until the last song, “Nothing But The Water,” when Potter literally demanded that everyone get up out of their seats, did the Seattle crowd finally start to move around a little. Granted, it’s not easy to get into the groove when you’re segmented into rows as you are at the Moore Theater, but I did see some definite shifting back and forth to the beat. I’m looking forward to the next time they come through town, when they’ll be the headlining act, and the crowd will be more inclined to move around from the beginning of the show, rather than just at the end.

Sadly, I had to leave early so I missed Brandi Carlile and Brett Dennen, but I find it hard to believe they would have managed the same mind-blowing set that Grace Potter & the Nocturnals did.

Full set list:
Some Kind of Ride
Goodbye Kiss
Ah Mary
Only Love
Nothing But The Water

(Originally posted at Click & Dagger.)