Gig review: GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS, Bush Hall, London, 13 March 2013

GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS, Bush Hall, London, 13 March 2013

It’s strange how some bands that have a big profile in the United States rarely cross the radar over this side of the pond. Vermont-based Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are one such and I admit to knowing little about them, other than seeing their name on the bill at various US festivals. However when one of my Stateside friends and a fellow music fanatic recommended them, and their London show was at one of my favourite venues, this intimate and lovingly restored ballroom round the corner from QPR FC, my curiosity got the better of me.

From the little I knew, I assumed their sound was country influenced, and then the way Grace, who cuts a stunning figure in fair hair and a lame cloak over a  black dress, opened with some Bonnie Raitt style slide guitar playing before taking to electric piano, added to my musical confusion. But as the set kicked off properly, the title track from the latest album The Lion, the Beast, the Beat rocked surprisingly hard.

GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS, Bush Hall, London, 13 March 2013

It was increasingly clear that while they cover a variety of styles- indeed Goodbye Kiss had a reggae feel to it-  GP&N are firmly in the tradition of classic American rock with the beguiling  Timekeeper, and an authentic cover of Springsteen Atlantic City both impressing.  Aside from Grace’s throaty voice in the tradition of Ann Wilson, Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge, their other trump card is a skilled set of musicians who instinctive ensemble playing reminded me of the Heartbreakers especially on rockier numbers like Mary, Runaway and Keepsake.

While Grace several times took to the keyboards for slower, more personal songs, it was when the band kicked into a groove that I enjoyed myself most, especially when big haired bassist Michael Libramento switched to keyboards and the songs had a more soulful feel.  Lead guitarist Scott Tournet at times stretched out in the manner of Lindsey Buckingham, adding to the Fleetwood Mac influences, notably on Nothing But the Water. The songs are perhaps not the most instant, so set closer Paris made a welcome change with its ‘ooh-la’la’ refrain after the chorus.

GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS, Bush Hall, London, 13 March 2013

After Stars came closest to the country rock I had mistakenly assumed them to be, a cover of Tom Petty’s American Girl showed the Heartbreakers comparisons were not misplaced, then a rocking jam to crowd favourite Medicine ended a set that was excellent value at an hour and three quarters.

Promising a swift return, on this evidence if you like the classic traditions of American rock, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are not to be missed. I went to this gig merely curious and left acclaiming a favourite new band.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

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