Thursday, August 23, 2012
State Theatre, Portland, Maine
I suspect that seeing Grace Potter perform live is a lot like seeing a well-rehearsed, well-choreographed, high-end peep show. That’s my first one sentence show recap ever! And I think it hits the mark really well!
But you know me by now, so. . .
I met up with Michelle and we carpooled to Portland to meet our friends Alex and Marian for dinner at Taco Escobarr before the show. We sat outside at the high top bar and had a delicious fish taco dinner while watching Portland’s vibrant community pass before our eyes. As we were settling up our tab I noticed a woman who had been sitting across the street at White Heart’s outdoor bar crossed the street and came over to the recently abandoned seats by us to down an unfinished margarita. I was stunned and thought it was hilarious and was soon shocked when I mentioned it to my friends and no one else had noticed! We said goodbye to Alex (who hates concerts) and made it to the State Theatre in short order and were able to snag spots front and center, behind a couple of rows of people.
Based on what I’d heard about Grace Potter (which is that she’s a sexpot), I was not at all surprised to see that men lined the barricades in the front row. I’d wanted to see her at the State in December of 2010 when she last played in town, but somehow didn’t make it. I’d regretted it for nearly two years, so was really excited to see her live.
Benny Yurco and The Revealers opened. They had a mellow classic rock sound and I thought the lyrics (which I care about) were really hard to hear. Benny had a cool falsetto voice when he used it. Someone standing near us informed us that he was a guitarist in the Nocturnals. He didn’t introduce himself or say much, but did introduce each member of his band. He also told us that we were witnessing the first time these songs had ever been played live for an audience. A group of people started to crowd us and I started to get annoyed, but they told us that they were friends with the pianist in the band and his mom and dad wanted to see him up close. I suggested they tell the tall guys in the front row who they were. They did, and the guys happily made room for the mom along the railing. Mom and dad were beaming and it was very cute. I was pretty indifferent to the music, but they did do one reggae-influenced song at the end of their set that was really fun.
So I don’t think people loved the opening act and then there was a solid 45-minute wait until Vermont’s Grace Potter and the Nocturnals took the stage. We weren’t off to a super start. When I think back to the show, I barely remember the music. I remember Grace’s outfit (which I genuinely thought might have been body paint at first) and her seductive and over-the-top dance moves. I found it all very distracting, actually. I think GP’s moves were right out of a rock star handbook written by Mick Jagger. I said to Michelle and Marian that I bet she went to some kind of rock star academy and got perfect marks, but maybe we were a little too close to the stage for my liking (and I have never ever said that before). She danced as though we weren’t there—as if she were having a private, satisfying experience. There were lots of wild hand gestures, arm waving, hair whipping, and fist pumping. I wondered if she might be a textbook exhibitionist. Have I written anything about her music yet? Nope. See? It was that distracting.
Don’t get me wrong—Grace Potter can definitely sing (she’s got serious pipes, actually), but that’s not solely what her live show is about. She certainly puts on a show, though. She can impressively screech like Steven Tyler and has a raspy rock voice a la my beloved Brandi Carlile. She told us how much she loves the Northeast and whenever she sees a Maine license plate in Vermont she says, “Yeah, they’re one of us.”
She played two pretty acoustic songs. I really liked “Falling Or Flying.” “Stars” was absolutely lovely and the lyrics moving—“I lit a fire with the love you left behind/And it burned wild and crept up the mountainside/I followed your ashes into outer space/I can’t look out the window/I can’t look at this place/I can’t look at the stars/They make me wonder where you are.” I laughed out loud early in the song when stars were suddenly projected all over the room. I looked at Michelle and said, “Well that’s a really literal translation!”
She killed in on “Treat Me Right”—the girl’s got soul for sure. GP was clearly pumped when so many people already knew the words to “Runaway” off their newest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, released in June. I loved “Tiny Light.” She played “One Heart Missing” for all the “lonely people in the world tonight,” and it includes the sad line, “If love is made for two there’s just one heart missing.”
It was a special night because it was Grace’s brother’s birthday and he was in the house. She invited two cloaked figures to the stage (it was creepy at first until they revealed that they were from the opening band) to cover “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” in his honor. They wrapped their set with a call and response and a reprise of “Medicine”—the whole band banged wildly on the drum set. She sent us kisses and said thanks and left the stage while the band rocked out.
Everyone left the stage and the crowd was quite sufficiently riled up and stomping for an encore. Grace and the Nocturnals came back for two more songs, “The Divide” and “Paris (Ooh La La).” “Paris” was awesomely mashed with “I Love Rock N Roll” which we gladly sang with her to end the raucous and entertaining evening. A Grace Potter show is definitely an experience (maybe not one I’d want to have again from so close up), but one definitely worth having at least once.