Sunday, November 11, 2012
Concert review: Grace Potter walks a fine line between grit and polish
Energetic is putting it lightly.
DALLAS Grace Potter began her concert Saturday night wearing sky-high heels and ended it on the soles of her feet, black from leaping barefoot around the stage like a one-woman rendition of Hair. The trajectory of the show was just like her career -- only in reverse.
The 29-year-old Vermont singer and her band the Nocturnals first made their name on the jam-band circuit with a dirty blend of rock, soul, and blues. Over the course of four albums, Potter’s traded the Earth mama look for heels and high couture while the Nocturnals’ music has grown more and more slick.
The good news is there’s still plenty of hip left in these ex-hippies. Performing a sold-out show at House of Blues, Potter and the Nocturnals danced along the tightrope between pop and blues-rock without falling into the abyss.
The group managed to funk up several tunes from its latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat. The mainstream piano ballad “Stars” grew teeth thanks to the Allman Brothers-like guitar work of Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco. The single “Never Go Back” came off leaner and tougher than on record, where it seems just another synth-laden throwback to the ‘80s.
And for every forgettable country-pop power ballad (“Big White Gate”), the Nocturnals offered several grimey jams, from the Stonesy slide-guitar rock of “Here’s to the Meantime” to the sledgehammer stomp-and-start of “2:22.” Potter doesn’t own the most distinct voice in music, but she wailed with enough and grit and soul to make the songs work.
She also knows how to sell a tune with theatrics. Early in her career, she liked to stay half-hidden behind her keyboard, but now she spends most of her show center stage, bashing away on a Flying V guitar and thrashing her long blond locks around like the fifth member of Metallica.
The concert’s best moments came when she ditched her guitar and her high heels and bounded across the floorboards barefoot, doing “The Charleston,” dropping to her knees, and generally acting like an overly-caffeinated teenager in front of her bedroom mirror. Her music and image might be getting progressively more polished, but Potter’s the same loony, free spirit she’s always been.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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