Concert Wrap: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, June 25 @ Riverfront Blues Fest

June 26th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Grace Potter. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media

It was slight, but important.

In a night marked by her exuberance, Grace Potter looked a little bored singing “White Rabbit” during her band’s cover of the Jefferson Airplane tune that Potter’s Vermont-based quintet first recorded for the soundtrack to the recent adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

It’s significant because most lead singers attempting to channel Grace Slick don’t have time to do anything but hold on for dear life, scream along and hope they are getting close.

That she can summon such power and tone so effortlessly should tell you a lot about Grace Potter, who was joined by her backing band The Nocturnals as the headliner of the Friday (June 25) night festivities at the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival in downtown Fort Smith.

“White Rabbit,” was the shortest track offered by the band all evening, and the blistering pace there didn’t seem like much of an accident.

Grace Potter wanted to show off her own stuff: both in terms of songs and her limitless charisma. And those who stuck around for the end got quite a show.

Potter spend the night slapping a tambourine, swinging her arms wildly in the air, pouncing on the keys of an organ, playing acoustic and electric guitars and proving why the band’s June 8 self-titled album peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Album charts.

Potter and company played new songs and old songs alike, closing with a barrage that rewarded the 500 – down from maybe 2,000 earlier in the evening - or so who stayed the duration of a oppressively humid night with 30 minutes of unbridled joy.

That started with the song “2:22,” a bluesy number during which the power of Potter’s voice gave me goosebumps twice, a feat made even more remarkable considering the heat. Tracks such as “That Phone” had things charging forward, and an a capella telling of “Nothin’ But The Water” from the band’s early days proved what a remarkable weapon Potter’s voice truly is.

That song has roots in gospel music as much as it does any other genre. And while no salvation was offered Friday night, Potter proved that a little live music is good for the soul.

About the opening act(s):

Band of Heathens

I didn’t arrive early enough to see Copesetic or Wisebird, but I did arrive early enough for Austin, Texas’ Band of Heathens. It’s probably the fourth time of seen them live, most recently at the Wakarusa Festival earlier this month. And, this was my favorite of those sets. Outside of the dusty confines of that music festival, the band, whom I would label as alternative country, took to blues and rock for their Friday night blues festival performance and was better off because of it.

Their attention to slide guitar and harmonica solos only added to an already potent three-guitar attack.

The music continues today until headliner Delbert McClinton finishes a set that begins at 10 p.m. Bands have already taken the stage today (June 25) and other performers include the Honey Island Swamp Band at 7 p.m. and JJ Grey and Mofro (who we profiled in What’s Up!) at 8:20 p.m.

Grace Potter Setlist: 1) Hot Summer Night; 2) Medicine; 3) Joey; 4) Goodbye Kiss; 5) Money; 6) Oasis; 7) Only Love; 8) One Short Night; 9) Falling Or Flying; 10) In The Meantime; 11) 2:22; 12) Tiny Light; 13) That Phone; 14) White Rabbit; 15) Paris (Oh La La);

Encore: 16) Nothin’ But The Water