Concert Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at The Pageant in Saint Louis

Photo Credit: Chris Lay

Waiting for Grace Potter isn’t all that bad. For some artists, that isn’t the case. In 2001, I waited a good 90 minutes for Lucinda Williams to show up at The Pageant, and the same album — Cowboy Junkies’ Open — played over the PA twice. A great, dark album, but not necessarily a way to perk up people waiting for a show.

Potter, she’s different.  She’s got the place sweaty, licking their chops, drinking their bourbon. The J. Geils Band’s “Angel in a Centerfold,” Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” blast the audience in the enticing moments before she’s out there strutting her stuff in a short skirt. This is a way to begin this kind of rock ‘n roll show. The only way, perhaps. And I would have to believe it was planned.

You see, Potter, like I said, is different when it comes to any artist – male or female – fronting a rock band. She’s a got a little Robert Plant in her, a little Kathleen Edwards in her, a little Chrissie Hynde in her…a little Kiss in her. And her band, the Nocturnals, know just what to do with her, which is, let her be exactly what she is: a budding rock star.

Look, it’s no secret that Potter is good looking. If that’s all you want, great. Anyone can point that out in a picture, or if you saw her on the street. But to simply define her as a pretty face with long legs is to vastly undermine the fact that she is a dynamic artist, capable of singing, dancing, mastering her Hammond B3, and thrashing her Flying V through an extra loud and furious rock show.

However, especially after watching her live, it’s obvious that Potter knows how gorgeous she is, and she plays it up. She’s sexy as hell, shows off those legs, and shimmies her way to the front of the stage with total confidence. It’s all part of the package. But, there’s more.

I’ve read a lot in recent days about how Potter and the Nocturnals are a blues-rock band, but, to me, that’s terribly misleading. Blues-rock doesn’t blow your eardrums; it doesn’t shake, rattle, and roll like the Nocturnals’ two guitarists, Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco, who, at one point in the show, delievered an excruciatingly loud (and perfectly awesome) wall of sound that went well beyond arena rock. After their two-hour performance, it’s clear to me that Potter and the Nocturnals are more of a kick-your-ass-on-the-street dirty rock ‘n’ roll band. Their blues meter is dusty and rusty, probably hidden somewhere on the back of their bus with an old case of Busch Light and a damp pack of Marlboros.

What I saw at The Pageant was a glowing band, tight with their extended jams, cool and cocky with their stage presence. They played many of the tunes off their latest self-titled album, but also reached back and delivered a flawless version of “Ragged Company,” off 2005’s Nothing But the Water. I did not see a band resting on its laurels; I saw a band honoring their new-found fame, yet still determined to work and show off their blue collar attitude like a hungry dog who has been drinking dirty water and hasn’t seen a treat in years.

Photo Credit: Chris Lay

Potter, with all her talents I’ve already mentioned, gave her fans what they wanted, song after song, even hamming it up during the encore with a smoking version of Heart’s “Crazy On You.” She fiddled with her Flying V before violently launching into “Paris (Ooh La La),” a song that really, and I mean really, gets her hips shaking. She even kept the momentum during a brief acoustic interlude that brightly showed off her vocals, which have unlimited range.

But perhaps the moment I’ll remember most from Potter was when she assumingly left the stage for good during “Medicine,” the show closer. Sure, she could have gone back in her bus, kicked her heels off, and got out of that skirt, hell, maybe even start to watch a movie or something. Instead, moments later, she pranced back onto the stage, still smiling (oh, her smile!), and gave us one more reminder that she’s “got the medicine that everybody wants.”

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I’d wait for them any day of the week.

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