Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were kind of a hot mess Thursday night at the Iowa Memorial Union concert.
And we’re guessing that was every bit the intent.
The 16-song, nearly two hour set was all over the map, just like the vocal range of the band’s front woman Grace Potter. Potter’s voice, like her legs in her signature short dresses, goes on and on.
Indeed, Potter had “the medicine everybody wants” from the first few bars of “Ah, Mary” to the last of the band’s encore, their version of Z.Z. Top’s “Tush.”
“I like the feel of this room,” she told the crowd, many of whom were volunteers through the 10,000 Hours Show at Iowa State and the UI. “It’s strangely psychadelic. That means it’s going to be a good night.”
She wasn’t lying.
The concert was at time sultry and sensual, and it was clear from shouts from the audience that those of the male persuasian appreciated Potter’s, umm, entire package. Indeed, Potter displayed her many talents within the first three songs, skipping, bouncing and bopping between stage center with a guitar to stage left’s pianos all while shaking a tambourine in between.
“Are you lonely like I’m lonely,” she asked during the refrain of one of the band’s newest songs “Lonliest Soul.”
To which an infatuated audience member, responded “Yes!”
They played another new song, “Turn Table,” before pausing the regularly scheduled set to wish a crew member and bass player a happy birthday, complete with a song, cake and balloons that bounced around above the audience throughout “Stop the Bus.” As if on cue, the last big blue balloon fell along with the final chords of the song.
The first half of the performance was high-energy, intoxicating and at times transported the audience back to the heady days of the 1970s. It took a turn to the deep south about middway through when Potter remained on stage to sing the revival-esque “Take me Down to the Water.” Completely unaccompanied, her voice rang clear, true and beautiful.
Moments later, she was again head banging and rocking with her boys for “Nothing But the Water” and “Never Go Back.”
The group closed the show with two fan favorites. The first, “Ooh La La” which perhaps like no other song displays Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ ability to combine soul, rock, retro-vibes and pure musicianship. There’s something to be said about a song with a fluffy name “Oh La La” that includes screaming guitar solos.
The final song “She’s Got the Medicine,” was also just what the doctor ordered.
Rayland Baxter, who opened for Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, deserves a shout out as well. He, along with fildder Kristin Weber and nataLie pras bass, is touring with GPN for a few shows throughout the midwest. With his winter hat and rugged, rumple clothes, he looked every bit the singer songwriter born in Tennessee and who launched his writing career in the mountains of Colorado.
His introspective lyrics and gorgeous harmonies would have been better listened to with a glass of wine or mug of coffee instead of standing in the ballroom of a college memorial union.
He acknowledged that at one point during the set, when he thanked the audience for hanging in there during the back to back slow songs.