Review: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals light up the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
“There’s two things that we came here to do,” Grace Potter said early in her concert Friday night at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. “We came here to play rock 'n’ roll. And we came here to get you hot.”
That much was evident, judging from the way Potter twirled, purred, howled and danced throughout Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ sold-out, nearly two-hour concert. Their riveting, rambunctious set meandered from blues to jam to country to gospel, and was the capper to another stellar First Friday in St. Pete — a sold-out Slightly Stoopid show up the road at Jannus Live; local bands at Fubar, the Local 662 and Vintage Ultra Lounge; and opening night at the overflowing Sake Bomb.
The Nocturnals are having something of a moment in 2011, with a new album, national profiles on CNN, PBS and VH1, appearances on nearly every late-night talk show and a tour that’s selling out coast to coast. The band has gone more glam than jam in recent years, though they’re still capable of spinning out a 10-minute hootenanny or two.
If she wasn’t so clearly self-assured, Potter might look at Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert or Hillary Scott and wonder: Why not me? After all, her songs, like the country ballad Apologies, are written and performed in the de rigueur witchy-woman style of the modern country diva. (Oh, really, Miranda, you sometimes want to live in an Airstream, just like a gypsy? Potter’s been living like that for almost a decade.)
Wearing a loose black kimono minidress, suede stiletto boots and a forest of wild blond bangs above her glittery eyes, Potter owned the crowd from the moment she sashayed onstage. With a giant stuffed tiger perched behind the stage, Potter unleashed her hellcat’s yowl early and often as she danced from the center of the stage to her Hammond B3, which was probably a good thing — if she didn’t have a place to sit, she might have spun off into oblivion, Stevie Nicks-style.
The Fleetwood Mac influence was strong throughout the night. Cleaned-up they may be, but the band was not afraid to get sweaty, particularly bearded guitarist Benny Yarco, who matched Potter hair-whip for hair-whip. The band took their cues from Potter throughout the night, as she tossed in riffs from Satisfaction and a cover of Heart’s Crazy On You. Twice, Potter, her two guitarists and her bassist huddled in a mini-jam session, their guitars whistling and wailing in sync.
The concert was peppered with a few extended, cacophonous ovations from the crowd. Potter nearly lost herself in the Tina Turner-esque vocals of Hot Summer Night, screaming like a woman possessed. The band’s thunderous, foot-stomping riffs near the ends of Joey and Tiny Light brought the house down. And the aggressively sultry come-on Paris achieved everything Potter wanted: It rocked, and it made the entire house hot.
But it was all an extended build-up to the set-closing single, Medicine, a randy rev-up that ended with the entire band banging on the drum kit, before Potter moaned the last lyric a cappella:
“I GOT THE MEDICINE THAT EVERYBODY WANTS!”
Boy howdy, and the crowd at the State sure knew it. Potter's taking a backseat to no one on her road to mainstream stardom. When the rest of America catches up, tell 'em she got you hot first.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*