(Photo by Taylor Crothers)
This past Thursday Brooke and I went to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals as part of the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center. This was the first time that either of us had been to the Allen Room which was stunning. The room is laid out beautifully and has a three story glass wall behind the performance area with a spectacular view over Columbus Circle and Central Park South. Photos aren’t allowed and the one I didn’t take didn’t turn out so well but you can get an idea by looking here and here. The room also had some of the best acoustics I’ve heard. Being in a space originally designed for music makes a difference. David Childs may have made a few mistakes when designing the Time Warner center, but this space is not one of them.
I wasn’t expecting much once we showed up. Despite loving a number of the tracks on Grace’s most recent album (which made the top 20 of WSGE’s top 100 albums of2007 ), I was concerned that the older and somewhat stodgy seeming crowd wouldn’t get into Grace’s youthful bluesy rock. Boy was I wrong! The first half of the show was pretty mellow, but the audience was totally into it. The second half really took off. The songs just became infused with more and more energy and when Grace shouted “Lincoln Center! Are you ready to get on your feet?!?!” everybody was. It wasn’t quite Pat Green or the Boss (t minus 22 days) energy. But it was the most energy I’ve felt at a show in a while. This was in no small part due to guitarist Scott Tournet’s shredding guitar solos. I had remembered some great rifs on the album and was initially disappointed by the sedate nature of his solos. In the second half he just simply came alive.
On a related note the whole band was tight. Grace was stellar on three different organs and occasionally picked up the sweetest looking V-shaped electric on a few songs. Bassist Bryan Dondero filled up the lower register with his continually nimble playing and drummer Matt Burr was clearly ready to go from the start. They were tight.
The annotated set list is below:
1) Ain’t No Time
2) Treat Me Right – This song built nicely with some especially funky riffs from Grace and Bryan
3) Mastermind – This song was very, very tight. I should note that Grace transitioned between all of these songs on the organ. All told the band opened by playing for almost twenty minutes straight. It was much appreciated.
4) Stage banter took a turn for the better here as Grace noted that “Just because we’re in a fancy venue doesn’t mean you can’t make noise.” The crowd obliged.
5) Stop the Bus – One of my favorites from the album. It features the lyric “Stop the bus and turn the radio up high / And grab the first guitar you” I love it. Grace and Scott were clearly having fun on this one.
6) Here’s to the Meantime – “If the devil made a fire you’d be the wood”
7) Can’t See Through – New song. Ballad. Not terrible. Not great. It did however feature the nice lyrics “cursing like a sailor, lying like a their.” Maybe I just like the phrase “cursing like a sailor.” [Update: I’m almost definitely mis-attributing the lyric to this song here. See the first comment below.]
8) Ah Mary – The lead-off track on This is Somewhere. Originally intended as a B-side. Thankfully not.
9) Sugar – New song. Recorded at Sun Studios. Repeatedly featured the lyric “don’t need no sugar in my bowl.” The anti-Nina Simone feeling I guess.
10) Lose Some Time – Just her and Scott on acoustic I think (my notes aren’t clear on this).
11) Apologies – Grace solo on the Steinway. Very nice.
12) Over Again
13) Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me – Absolutely killer guitar solo by Scott. Killer. I don’t remember if it was on this song or some other (I lost track a little when we all got up) but I think it was here that all the member of the band, with the exception of Matt, put down their instruments threw up their picks, picked up some drum sticks and all together on the one drum kit embarked on the best four person, five minute drum solo I’ve ever seen. At first I thought it was just going to be gimmicky but it was good and certainly fun. Scott or Bryan was the one on the stool at the kit and Matt was somewhere off to the right with Grace mainly playing the bass drum from the front. When Matt did take over the solo it was on mainly nontraditional items including a table, the speaker stand, the speaker, the wooden owl on the speaker, and a plastic water bottle some guy in the audience was holding up. We all ate it up.
14) “Nothing But the Water is Gonna Lay My Soul to Bear” – Grace started their last song with an acoustic intro that featured this last line of the chorus. The band then transitioned into an instrumental that had separate lyrics I believe but may have been part of the same song. They ended the set by having the audience clap and sing the chorus repeatedly with them as they stepped away from their mikes and walked off stage in line.
“Encore”) Big White Gate – A song for her mother on her birthday.
[Update: You can read Stephen Holden’s review of the concert for the Times here]