LOCAL LIVE! In Denver, About Denver, Musically Denver!!!!
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Odgen Theatre, Denver, February 11, 2011
Grace Potter by Paul Smith
As Grace Potter’s music (and her persona) continues to become more commercial, her popularity increases. Funny how that works. She’s certainly not the first rock star to follow that trajectory. ZZ Top was an earlier projectile that flew that route. In 1973 they were all denim and dust. Two years later, they provided the inspiration for the Glen Campbell hit “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Well, maybe not specifically that song, but by 1975 they certainly looked like they had inherited a rhinestone mine. Not too many years ago, Grace Potter had the denim and flannel look of the Vermonter that she is. Somewhere over the course of the next few years she stumbled across her own sequin supply. Goodbye LL Bean, hello Versace and Victoria’s Secret. If she keeps heading down this path, we’ll eventually have to call her Grace Slick.
For Friday night’s show at the Ogden (her first sell-out in Denver), she chose an ultra short sequined dress with strings of beads dangling from it. The music, on the other hand, was a little more down to earth. Many of the songs featured pop hooks, to be sure, and straight ahead rock and roll was well represented. But the show won’t be confused with a Justin Bieber performance. The band broke into some extended and spacey jams a couple times, notably on “Oasis” and “Tiny Light” with Potter on wordless vocals, a little like “Great Gig in the Sky.” And the blues provided the underpinning for many of the songs.
A highlight was “Sugar” with the lyric “I don’t need no sugar in my bowl.” Perhaps she was taking a stand for women’s independence. Or maybe she was just irritated with her man of the hour and didn’t need the sweet talk and wanted to get down to business. The last line: “I got a big ol’ pot of coffee/And all I need is a little cream.” Double entendre: a fine blues tradition. At any rate, the song sounded not just bluesy, but downright demonic. In sequins?
Although not yet 30, Potter is a classic rock chick. For the first song of the encore, the band played “Crazy On You” from Heart’s first album Dreamboat Annie. Many of her originals have that same vibe like “Medicine” and “Only Love.” She reworked one of her favorites “Stop the Bus” to include some pounding bass straight out of the early Led Zeppelin songbook. When she added the lyrics to “Good Times, Bad Times” I knew I wasn’t hallucinating. She also covered a couple tunes that weren’t quite as aged including My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.” She borrowed Josh Ritter’s “Idaho” and turned it into “Colorado.” The crowd went wild.
As usual, Potter played guitar, including a couple different Flying Vs as well as keyboards. She doesn’t get behind the B-3 quite as often as she did in her blue jeans and flannel shirt days, but she still used it for about a third of the songs. The band broke out the acoustic guitars for several songs. Potter strapped one on a couple times for a three acoustic attack. Scott Tournet on lead guitar was the chief soloist and used those occasions to keep the blues-rock sound front and center. Rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco got his turn at the beginning of the encore with an extended acoustic solo which included repeated teases of the “Crazy on You” intro as well as extensive quotes from other classics such as Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Catherine Popper on bass provided an active low end, tight harmony vocals and an additional set of legs. Matt Burr on drums was simply exuberant.
After all the writing I’ve done about Grace’s various attributes, I was surprised when I realized I’d overlooked something: she has perfect teeth. Check ‘em out:
Hot Summer Night
Big White Gate
Here’s to the Meantime
One Short Night
Things I Never Needed
Golden - My Morning Jacket
Sugar - Black Sabbath meets Nina Simone
Stop the Bus/Good Times Bad Times
Crazy On You
Idaho by Josh Ritter reworked as Colorado
Nothing But the Water