The Pabst Theater packed in a sold-out crowd for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on Jan. 20, 2013. Fans arrived early for the general admission show despite the arctic temperatures that enveloped Milwaukee on Sunday evening. Langhorne Slim and the Law opened the show and did a fantastic job warming up the chilled crowd.
Grace Potter appeared alone on stage just after 9:15 p.m. wearing a black sheer wrap that draped over her shoulders and dangled just above her knees. A Gibson Flying V was strapped to her svelte frame and she began with "Nothing But the Water (I)" from their debut album of the same name. The Nocturnals joined Grace Potter for Part II of the song and they were quickly firing on all cylinders. They remained old-school, continuing with their first single "Ah Mary."
Touring on "The Lion The Beast The Beat," they continued with the entertaining "Turntable" as the first of five songs on the night from the 2012 release. Potter's soulful voice fits no mold, her DNA seems to transcend early vocal powerhouses from Janis Joplin to Ann Wilson.
The evening moved between the folk and country influenced songs from their earlier work to bits of electronic and funk infused rock from their latest effort. Blend it together behind an array of colored backlighting mixed with a dose of disco ball reflected beams and the result was psychedelic bliss. Fans near the stage danced in place within the tight confines near the stage while the floor gently swayed under their feet.
Guitarists Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco were joined by Potter on both guitar and keyboards. A few songs segued into jam sessions as the trio grooved together in a dimly lit haze while Matt Burr and Michael Libramento laid the beat on drums and bass, respectively.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals churned out a lengthy two-hour set that touched upon a few deeper cuts like "Keepsake" and "Things I Never Needed" while also including most of their live favorites such as "Joey," "Stop the Bus" and "Mastermind." The Nocturnals slowly drifted into the melody of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" as Potter dropped to the stage and writhed to the beat. She kicked off her heels as she laid on her back and then twirled barefoot--as though she was channeling Woodstock into the historic Pabst Theater--before breaking into song.
They closed their set with "Paris (Ooh La La)" before returning for a three-song encore of "The Lion The Beast The Beat," "Medicine" and Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." At one point during the night, Potter suggested that she "sometimes needs to pinch herself...that she has such a talented band." It's hard to disagree, add Potter's voice to the mix and it's a match made in heaven.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals setlist:
Nothing But the Water (I)
Nothing But the Water (II)
Things I Never Needed
One Short Night
Here's to the Meantime
Stop the Bus
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane cover)
Paris (Ooh La La)
The Lion The Beast The Beat
I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan cover)