The Barrymore was alive with energy and as I approached the flashing sign from the sidewalk there was a line of chattering people winding out the door and a good 5 feet down the sidewalk. A red sign greeted those who were less prepared with a bold “SOLD OUT,” to which they sighed and walked away. Reminiscent of an old movie theater, the Barrymore was looking charming as ever on the evening of the Grace Potter show.
The heady aroma was a cocktail of popcorn and impatience as the lights dimmed and the ceiling twinkled for Rayland Baxter, the opening act. The opener fit Potter’s MO with a mean 5 o’clock shadow and curly blonde locks peeking out.
As the bluesy rock began to roll and the crowd began to sway, I took a moment to size up who was there. 49.45 percent of the crowd was very intensely waiting for Potter to come on, while the other 49.45 percent was that person’s significant other who was either waiting intensely with them, or just looking ready to groove. The other .1 percent was myself, who was the youngest there by at least a couple years.
Baxter cruised through his set with low-key bluesy beats that warmed up the crowd. He was very good at engaging the crowd through comical introductions of his hip-looking backup band, whether it was the lanky swaying bassist with hair down to his neck, or the heavily bearded pianist who stoically nodded and jived in the background. The transitions between songs, however, took much longer than they should have and were noted by the crowd.
At 9:15 p.m., after a half hour break for everyone to replenish the liquid movement in their cups and deposit the used-up solution to a porcelain receptacle, the lights dimmed and clock sounds rang through the Barrymore. To this, the band slowly took the stage to the growing approval of the crowd, which swelled to a roar as Grace Potter came to the front, kicking off the set right with “Turntable.”
Immediately the energy Potter brought to the stage was felt by the crowd as the lazy hip swinging became more aggressive and more and more body parts began to be involved in the couples’ boogie. Another thing that was painfully apparent was the crowd’s lack of knowledge about flash and phone etiquette for concerts, a fact which was unfortunately apparent throughout the evening’s set.
“Midnight,” released in August, was Potter’s first solo albumapart from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, whose 2012 album The Lion The Beast The Beat was the band’s most successful. “Midnight” was also met with much applause, but for a tour with that album’s name on it there was surprisingly little in the set from it. 15 out of 20 of the set’s songs were Nocturnals songs, including the entirety of the encore with the exception of a Bob Dylan cover featuring Baxter. This contributed to a very hard-hitting and driving set, although one which I thought was poorly structured at its best.
Potter came out rocking and didn’t give us a chance to breathe on an easy song until an hour in, and then the last half hour of her set was all in-your-face jams until she left the stage at the end of her regular set at 10:50 p.m. This, combined with very long and seemingly unnecessary musical fills between songs on the set, made the concert feel, for me, like there was no build and that it was kind of getting stale toward the end of her regular set.
Regardless, one thing that can be said is that Potter never lacked for energy. Clad in skin-tight black pants and a silver top, she was the visual focal point of the stage from her attire alone. Combine this with the seemingly limitless energy she displayed as she belted lyrics into the Barrymore’s dancing crowd, it made for one potent powerhouse of a lead on the vocals. Coyly making jokes and high-fiving the front row, she made sure the crowd was never far from her mind. The level of energy would have been impressive for a normal set, but Potter and her band somehow kept the same level of energy for a set and encore that lasted two hours.
Finishing with crowd favorites like “Stars” and then driving it home with “Paris (Ooh La La),” the crowd had something to dance and cheer about as the set came to a close, although the solos and fills in “Paris (Ooh La La)” did end up taking up quite a bit of time. The band concluded to the zealous cheering of those couples who hadn’t danced their hearts out and made it all two hours. I left, enjoying hearing all the excited chatter. It wasn’t the most musically amazing concert I have ever been to, but one thing is for certain: Grace Potter and her band know how to bring amazing energy and play to their crowd.