“Why don’t you love me babe?” crooned Grace Potter coyly as she pranced seductively around the stage on Friday night. Performing to a sold-out crowd at Boston’s House of Blues, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals delivered a blisteringly hot set over the course of two hours, proving to the crowd that the band is one of the best live acts in the music industry.
When the opening notes of “Only Love” began to play, it was clear that Potter would come out with guns blazing. Emerging in a shimmering outfit, she took command of the stage from the moment she set foot on it. Not every singer can be labeled as the whole package, but Potter truly has the brains, the beauty, and the talent to already solidify her place in musical history. Delivering a roughly 20-song set evenly divided between material from the band’s three CDs (with a few covers thrown in here and there), The Nocturnals masterfully blew Boston out of the water and seemed to enjoy themselves in the process.
Potter’s voice is eerily reminiscent of that of the late Janis Joplin, a smoky and soulful creature in itself that packs an emotional and soul engulfing wallop. Her ability to nail (and then hold) high notes without turning them into shrieks is a testament to her ability as a musician. On Friday, it was clear that Potter was battling a cold. On “Hot Summer Night,” the second number, the high-heeled singer disappointingly steered clear of the highest notes, only to blast them out of the water in her later songs after sipping on what was clearly a cup of hot tea.
When Potter slowed things down, the otherwise raucous audience shut up and listened almost reverently. As she tenderly sang “Apologies,” a number that gained popularity after being featured on Grey’s Anatomy a few years ago, one could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was fixated on Potter and her gorgeous vocals, the likes of which were able to silence an audience without any instruments. However, when she did decide to pick up a guitar, or when she her hands flew across her antique organ, the audience was not one to complain.
The concert was not all about Potter, however. Her highly skilled band shared the spotlight on many numbers, revealing just how close of a tightly knit unit it is. Wickedly talented and too-cool-for-school bass player Cat Popper giggled as guitarist Benny Yurco straddled a giant plush tiger while rapidly shredding his two-necked guitar. Lead guitarist Scott Tournet jumped up on a speaker and took a solo during “Medicine,” a number that ended with all five members crowding around drummer Matthew Burr’s kit, interchangeably banging on the instrument in an entrancing five-part drum “solo.”
The band captivated the audience on its two cover songs, both of which stood out as highlights of an otherwise stellar show. On “Why Don’t You Love Me,” originally a Beyonce song, Potter whipped out her guitar and added a serious dash of bluesy soul to the tune. However, things really heated up during Heart’s “Crazy on You,” a song that Potter covered with the original band on VH1’s Divas in November. Kicking off her two-song encore with the technically difficult number, Potter wailed and howled with chilling results.
One of the most exhilarating things about Friday’s show was its set list, a wide-ranging array of songs that included both the hits and also smaller numbers that only the most devoted fans would know. It was Potter’s way of thanking her crowd for supporting her throughout the years. Additionally, the band managed to changed the set list from her recent New York show so drastically that the two only shared six songs in common, a true testament to The Nocturnals’ astonishing ability to play their whole catalogue and then some.
The regular set’s closing number really said it all. On her biggest hit to date, “Paris (Ooh La La),” Potter could not stop smiling. As she sensually glided around the stage, her hips wagging and head bobbing, Potter made her way to all corners of the room and blew kisses as the slinky baseline reverberated in the background. The audience was happy to oblige when Potter had them sing the chorus back to her until the room was echoing with voices while Potter, Popper, Yurco, and Tournet pounded away at their instruments with the kind of passion that leaves memories for a lifetime.