Grace Potter at Bryant Park

A while back I came across a chance to win tickets to see GRACE POTTER and the NOCTURNALS – one of my favorite bands – in New York City, and figured I’d enter for the hell of it. I never win these things but they already had my email so no big deal.

Then I get an email telling me I won two tickets to a ‘secret’ show being held at Bryant Park for a taking of the PBS show “The Artists Den”. Needless to say I was pretty stoked even considering the drive. It seemed like it was going to be a fairly limited audience and I figured if they were being taped, they’d really deliver (although the only time I’ve seen them at the TLA in Philly, they were pretty extraordinary without being taped).

I came home with the good news, expecting to FINALLY take Shari to see her (the first time she was sick, and we both missed the second show in the midst of bathroom renovations); to my surprise, she said she couldn’t go because of work commitments! I was bummed and considered giving up my tickets, but decided I could pull it off fairly cheaply by bringing my own food/drink and parking in Jersey, taking the subway in. But I had an extra ticket. I tweeted about my extra and got a response from someone who knew someone who wanted to go. We made arrangements to meet up, and up to NYC I went.

I got to Bryant Park about 75 minutes early to wait in line for my ‘tickets’ and learned I was going to be flying solo. But the wait wasn’t bad and once we were inside, I was impressed with the venue. The Southwest Porch in the park appears to be quite a nice place to spend some time at lunch, complete with a plaza sporting Adirondack chairs and a small cafe. For the show, the attendees with the special tickets were given access to a smaller portion of the plaza, with a smallish stage set directly in front of a cottage- like structure. Others were filled in around the porch at a further distance.

Next to the Porch was the park proper which was occupied by hundreds of yoga practitioners going through their stretches. That site itself was pretty impressive. Later, they’d give way to other GPN fans who cane top the park to get at least a glimpse of the band and listen to the music at a distance.

I was lucky enough to get a spot at center stage about 10′ away – a great vantage point for their energetic performance (I was lucky enough to get to three stage at the TLA). And I was able to meet a cadre of cool fans to talk to as we waited for the show to start, including one guy who was at the TLA show two years ago (small world).

Grace Potter singing

Soon enough, it was time to begin. It was twilight over the park, light enough to see clearly and for the cameras to record without the lights blaring, but just dark enough to set an ambience. The band came on first in their full 70s porn star chic – particularly bassist Catherine Popper in a barely there dress – hitting the first tentative notes to an eager crowd. They began gaining stream just as Grace hit the stage to the opening of “Hot Summer Nights”. I had expected to hear this tone but was a little surprised it was the opener; it turned out to be a great choice as the crowd joined in happily. The vibe was good from the start and you just knew this was going to be a fine show.

Grace herself was stunning in a short toga- inspired white dress that was both eye- catching and a bit naughty but all sexy. Her voice was a perfect match for the dress, fiery and sultry to compliment the just there heat in the air. (I got a Quicktime video of “Hot Summer Nights“, with really poor quality audio due to it (a) being an iPhone and (b) me accidentally putting my finger over the recorder several times…)

After a quick greeting, the band jumped into “Aah Mary” and “Goodbye Kiss” from the new album, the latter being particularly fun with lead guitarist Scott taking some time on the harmonica in this blues-funk track. Overall, the new record would be well-represented as they’d play 9 of the 14 tracks, sprinkled with other hits and fan favorites from older albums. It was evident that the band was having as much fun as the audience, smiling, laughing and joking as they played. The crowd – especially those in front of the stage were all in a state of mellow exuberance (well, except for those two drunk neo- hippie chicks who kept dancing into everyone).

Grace Potter on the Flying V

Grace moved back and forth between piano and lead singer all night, picking up a guitar on many of the tunes – in only a short time, she’s become a good player and it added another dimension to the show, especially when she grabbed the Flying-V (gotta love a women wielding one of those).

The band jammingAfter “Goodbye Kiss”, they launched into “Only Love” and then into the first single from the new album, “Tiny Light”. While I love the studio and acoustic versions, the live version was easily the best as Potter belted out the chorus with a passion, and finished up the song with some vocal tricks to add dimension. At this point, the show was in full swing and the band started having some fun: jokes on stage, the band members all taking up positions around Matt’s drum set to bang out their own rhythms, the chatter to the crowd between songs.

On “Apologies”, they mellowed it out a bit as Grace took a seat and let her piano and voice take over in the slightly warm night over a quieted crowd. I looked over and noticed that the park on the outside of the patio enjoying the show from a distance. If you couldn’t get into the show, sitting on the lawn listening to the band belt out a few tracks seemed like a close second.

Next up was the upbeat tune “One Short Night”, a peppy tune that the band really did up right, followed by the blues-country song “Low Road” where her vocals really soared, the soulsy-blues number “That Phone” and the funky “Oasis” complete with vocal and music effects, all from the newest album [I also got a video of “Oasis” that’s cool to see but the audio is a bit rough – see at end of the post]. After a little banter within the band, the brilliant cover of Jefferson Starship’s “White Rabbit” began to a grateful crowd. I have to admit that there are some songs that it’s hard to duplicate but Grace’s channeling of Grace Slick is nearly perfect.

After taking a bow, they went into the song that “was strangely popular, if inappropriate, among kids”, “Paris” and then into the awesome “Medicine” where she was really jamming. Both tracks provided a high-energy drive into the close of the show – or at least the recorded portion. Thanking the crowd, the band left the stage but only for a few moments as the crowd chanted for “one more song”.

The first song out was a cover of Debbie Harry’s “Heart of Glass”, a song I hadn’t heard her do before and didn’t immediately recognize, although they did a great job of it. Grace come back to ask the crowd if they wanted another, which of course we all did. At this point, we were in ‘bonus time’ and I was hoping for them to do my favorite cover – “Cortez the Killer”. That didn’t happen, but I was treated to the duo of great songs from “This is Somewhere”: “Stop the Bus” and “Big White Gate”, both of which were outstanding.

Grace Potter at the piano

After another pause and check on our determination for yet another ‘one more song’, the band entered into their first hit as they moved back and forth between “Nothing But the Water” I and II. The jammed out to the end of the show, thanking us after 2 hours of a great show. It was over but it seemed too soon, another great night of music from a great band.  You can see a slideshow of better pictures than mine from the site.

Set List
Hot Summer Night
Ahh Mary
Goodbye Kiss
Only luv
Tiny Light >
One Short Night
Low Road
That Phone
White Rabbit
— Encore —
Heart of Glass
Big White Gate
Nothing But the Water 1> 2 > 1

Extra Stuff: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – “Oasis” (Quicktime video)


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