Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Say Grace

The first concert I attended was in 1987. I was 16. I have no direct experience with the concerts of the ‘70s, but they seem to have been a pretty damn big deal.

I’ve seen the Rolling Stones Some Girls Live In Texas concert film. My friends and I used to watch KISS live concerts on VHS when we were kids. Plus, I’ve seen Almost Famous at least half a dozen times. So I know the mythical power and draw of concerts from the 1970s, and I mostly believe the hype that this was the pinnacle of rock as a live performance experience for the masses.

When Grace Potter & the Nocturnals took the stage at The Orange Peel in Asheville last Thursday night, she and her pals did everything they could to make sure the spirit of those long-ago days weren’t completely gone. Whether she succeeded couldn't really be for me to say, but by God she got a gold star for effort.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (w/Heart) - Paris (Ooh La La) & Crazy On You (YouTube)

Grace Potter isn’t even 30, so I’m not sure how she has a radar lock on the concert energy of an era that existed before she was the proverbial itch in her daddy’s pants, but she gets it. She was raised in Vermont, so maybe that explains some of it.

She kicked off the night with the opening song off her latest album of the same name, “The Lion, The Beast and The Beat.” This song was intentionally made to be the opening song of a rock concert. Everything about that song is intended to serve notice of the pending 2-hour sonic assault.

The slower and more touchy-feely moments of her concert felt mostly like respites from the TNT-level concussive blasts of their up-tempo numbers. At one point, my wife, who knew almost nothing of Grace Potter or her music before entering that concert hall, said, “The singer seems to enjoy these more than the crowd.” While that comment felt a bit harsh, there was truth in it. Then again, her song “Stars” was a slower number, and it was the first song my wife requested when we got into the car the next day, so maybe the slower stuff just took a bit longer to sink in.

The concert went two hours, with a perfectly-arranged 3-song encore that began with a decent cover of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”

The subject of covers at concerts can be endlessly debated, but I’m an ardent believer in them. Cover songs in concert are so much more telling of an artist’s interests and loves than those that get recorded in studio. Two is acceptable, but one is enough. Playing a cover, to me, lets the artist remind us all that they, too, are music fans, and that they’re about the glory of song rather than the glory merely of themselves.

They ended the show with “Medicine,” a song practically crafted to quadruple in power and impressiveness for a live show. I love it when a band does something off the wall, and in the middle of this one, all five members grabbed some sticks and moved, one by one, to the drum set. Eventually the only sound filling the venue was the sound of five folks wailing mercilessly on various sections of the same drum kit. It could have failed; it was certainly a bit risky; but it fit the song and the mood and the wrapping of a wild and loud night.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - Medicine (acoustic) (YouTube)

There’s a reason Grace Potter & The Nocturnals were the only sold out show so far on The Orange Peel’s schedule. People love a band who loves a crowd, and they showed Asheville lots of love last week.

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