Monday, 14 October 2013

Grace Potter at Corona Theatre 2013

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals  |  Corona Theatre


I could still feel the warmth and breathe the aroma of the smoky tea that I had sat with just minutes before I had left the house, although the lingering fragrance felt more akin to having left a bonfire. The air was crisp and the streets were chilled as I spotted the  a sign for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals headlining The Corona Theatre. The steps I took into the theatre were welcomed by a room full of life. Two paths wrapped around the bar and each led down to the main floor where the open space was filled with the energy that only an excited collective of fans could create as they mingled. The lights dimmed and the audience released some off-puttingly loud variations of a jubilant howl while the band made its way onto the stage. My ears were bleeding.

With just one pluck of the bass strings, one strum of the electric guitar and one chime of the symbol, the crowd was tamed as Grace stared us in the eyes and opened her mouth seductively. Her voice had the soothing qualities of a mother’s lullaby, but dirty. I could feel her lower register reverberating inside me as she drew me in deeper. The song’s pace started to shift. My foot started tapping and my head started doing that thing where it leans forward for a second then pulls back then forward again then back then again then "oh my goodness that riff is was good!" She was shredding a guitar riff so full of rock that even the shambled war-ridden streets of Montreal were like “daayum”. Not only was she ripping hard on her electric guitar but vocally she was climbing mountains with her upper register. When the song came to an end, I welcomed the further bleeding of my ears as I, this time, joined the audience in the howls and whistles.

The band consisted of guitarists Scott Turnet and Benny Yurco, bassist Michael Libramento and newlyweds Matt Burr & Grace Potter as the drummer and lead vocalist respectively. Potter also played her choice of instruments in every song from acoustic to electric guitar, organ, piano, tambourines and even the drums during a jam-out. They gave back to their fans at every concert by letting them tweet what they would like to see on the setlist. On this particular night, Grace thanked the crowd for their tweets and exclaimed “we fit every request that was made on our setlist tonight! A special thank you to those fans, you know who you are!”

Her lion’s mane flowed down to her shoulders which were sheathed in a see-through snake skin patterned coatigan (a long coat-like cartigan, I googled it) atop a short and low cut black dress. Her fashion sense was worth mentioning as she balanced the class of her shimmering high heels with the grit of her rock star persona. There was absolutely no compromise when it came to performance. She threw kicks with every crash of the drums, her hair was everywhere and she moved around the stage with those long bare legs in a matter that was absolutely congruent with her name.

Although the act was hard hitting to begin, at some point in the night I found myself falling out of the concert. The songs were starting to feel too much like a rehearsal where everything was on cue but nothing felt organic. I might have just been in an odd mood but the audience was throwing me off as well. It felt like everyone had quieted down in a creepy sort of way, watching the performance almost hypnotically, with dead eyes. The artists had fallen into a routine that caused a loss of connection with the audience, no matter how involving the routine was. 

But then they recovered! They came forward and did an acoustic jam of their song “Mystery Train” which was fantastic. The change in musicality went from a seemingly over-prepared performance to a natural progression of rhythm and melody. It felt as though they were now paying attention to our mood and letting the music take shape with the group. It was exactly what we needed. When the song finished, the applause was so loud that it felt more like a revival. People were screaming “thank you!” and I even heard someone shout “play more like this!”

Potter’s powerhouse vocals were shown off in songs like “Low Road” and her sensible side flourished during their performance of “Stars”. By the time they got to their newest album’s self-titled track “The Lion, the Beast, the Beat”, Grace had shed her snake-skin coatigan, kicked off her heals and jump started the evening a second time with what was I thought was to be my favorite song of the night. However, It was the encore performance of “Nothing but The Water” that took the cake. Barefoot, she walked back on stage with only a spotlight and an electric guitar. She began tearing up the airwaves with distortion. Her voice pierced through the ringing amplifiers with crystal clarity. Gradually the song began to take form as her band-mates came on stage one by one. And finally, they brought the tune to completion in a way that would make any of the rock gods smile.

With five original albums, at least a decade of touring experience and a true gritty rocker gal on lead, if you like classic hard rock, don’t let Grace Potter & The Nocturnals slip away. They’ll knock you out of Paris. Oo la la.

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