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Concert Review: Grace Potter and The Nocturnals Create Magic In Central Park

Usually, the autumn days have us thickening our clothing layers with a dismal expression on our faces, but this fall we think our frowns will be permanently flipped around. We credit our surge of optimism to Grace Potter and The Nocturnals. We got to check out the genre-fusing band on Saturday night, September 24th, at Rumsey Playfield Central Park and the night was magical. That description might sound a bit corny, but Grace Potter and The Nocturnals remind us just why we fell for music in the first place. We have had the band’s 2010 self-titled album on constant replay for the past year, but seeing them perform the tracks live exposed us to another realm of the band. Simply put, the Central Park stage was Grace Potter and The Nocturnals’ playground and the gates to the playground were wide open for everyone to dance through.

The band consists of lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Grace Potter, guitarist, Scott Tournet, guitarist and vocalist, Benny Yurco, bass guitarist and vocalist, Catherine Popper and drummer, Matt Burr. It is important to note that these artists are musicians of an array of instruments, but for quick reading purposes, we’ll just list their go-to instruments. The rock band released their debut album, “Nothing But Water”, independently, in 2005. Two years later, their second album, “This Is Somewhere”, dropped via Hollywood Records and in 2010 the group released their third studio recording, “Grace Potter and The Nocturnals”. Between the album releases, the tracks from the all-encompassing band can be heard in films, television shows and music festivals across the country. We were a bit late to the Grace Potter and The Nocturnals fan club, but once we heard their tune, “Paris (Ooh la la)”, on VH1 in 2010, we were hooked.

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Seeing the band live this past weekend only solidified our addiction to them. The gorgeous New York City night went perfectly with the psychedelically lit stage. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals do not need all the props you see at Britney Spears and Katy Perry concerts. The band’s presence magnified by dramatic lighting is more than enough and the opening track, “Stop The Bus”, only verified that. Grace Potter’s vocal range is remarkable. Her voice staggeringly resembles that of Janis Joplin. Since the counterculture days, we hadn’t heard a single musician make ‘screaming’ sound so passionately layered until Potter.

Her freedom provoking vocals ideally fit with the laidback demeanor of The Nocuturnals. Amongst the songs on the set list, which included just about every track off of the band’s latest album plus more, the group also made time for some public jamming. Seeing Potter prance around the stage with her arms waving high as the guitarists shredded on their electric guitars was all the proof we needed to know that music isn’t Grace Potter and The Nocturnals’ job, it is their life passion. The dedication to their music is well expressed and well studied. Yes, they are a contemporary band of the 21st Century, but the depth of their sound corresponds to more than one decade of music; those that were dominated by rock, country, jazz, rhythm and blues and even pop can all be heard. Categorizing Grace Potter and The Nocturnals will only devalue their craft. So we’ll just stick to saying the “all-encompassing” band.

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As the whimsical concert progressed, we found ourselves constantly calling each song our favorite until we heard the following one, but after long contemplation, we were able to pick our top tune. The winning song goes to “Low Road”. Potter’s clear and crisp vocals tap into emotions that resonate well with the lyrics of the tune. The inspiring message we took from the performance can be paraphrased like this: The road may have a few bumps along the way, but the journey will only make you stronger. While Grace Potter and The Nocturnals performed “Low Road”, our minds were so drastically involved in the song that we were able to escape from our daily problems. This inspirational tune defines just how powerful music can be.

As if we needed anymore convincing that Grace Potter and The Nocturnals were just an all around awesome band, the group did the unthinkable; one positively unexpected and the other, expected. The quintet first did a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and then towards the end of the show performed, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”. We had heard the Jefferson Airplane cover before in 2010 on “Almost Alice”, which is the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s version of “Alice in Wonderland”. Hearing that cover live as well as the Nirvana tune was an experience we wish all you Shockya readers could have been a part of. Especially on these tunes, it become quite obvious how loyal the fans are to the band. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals give the crowd a way to get lost within the music, hardship free and the fans appear to be unbelievably thankful for that experience.

We are undeniably part of that thankful flood of people. We left that show on Saturday feeling invincible and that emotion has yet to dissipate.

by Lonnie Nemiroff

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