Grace Potter brought her Midnight Roadshow to Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre on October 28. Bringing her new brand of rock / pop, she commanded every inch of the stage and introduced her growing audience to what she’s doing now.
Opening the show was Rayland Baxter, a 5-piece band out of Nashville. A perfect choice for a supporting act, they truly warmed up the crowd and got them ready for Grace. Their set started very mellow and slowly built to a roaring and rocking close. It was like a 45 minute crescendo. Rayland had great interaction with the crowd. He has a dry sense of humor and is almost kind of nerdy, but in an appealing way. By the end of their set, parts of the crowd would break the silence in between songs with shouts of, “Rayland!” Their set concluded with a rocker of a song that was introduced by Rayland with the statement, “We are about to take you to space on a big, velvety Volkswagen bus.” Very gracious and approachable gentlemen, the band hit the merch booth after their set and stayed there greeting fans for the remainder of the night.
Now we were perfectly primed and ready for the Queen of the evening. Her sound has recently shifted from a blues rock to more of a pop rock. For old school Grace Potter jam band fans, it was like Rayland’s Volkswagen bus came to a screeching halt at the transfer station and we were all diverted to Grace’s Pop train. Shedding her band of years, The Nocturnals, and presenting her Midnight Roadshow, Grace proved that no matter where she is or what style she’s playing she is certainly Queen of any domain. She is the quintessential front woman and owned every inch of that stage the entire evening! Right off the bat she gave a 1-2 pop punch. She opened with the first song off of her new release Midnight, “Hot to the Touch,” and rolled into the very pop sounding Nocturnals song, “Never Go Back.” Now that she made it perfectly clear to old fans that we are not in Kansas anymore, she played a new song that sounds like old Grace. “Empty Heart” is one of those songs off of Midnight that sounds like it could really rock live if done right. It was every bit as awesome as I’d hoped. They did it 100% justice that night. Keeping things a bit classic, they played “Ah Mary” and then the new Grace ballad “Let Go.”
Shifting back to new sounds, the band played a couple new tunes off of Midnight again. This seemed to be the format of the show. Some new songs, some old songs, back to new songs, then old . . . It was a perfectly planned show, as far as song flow. Midnight was well represented with a total of 8 songs being played from that release. High points for me were how well they rocked out “Empty Heart,” as well as “Apologies” that featured opener Rayland Baxter on the second verse. The double encore of classics, “Stars,” “Medicine,” and “Paris (Ooh La La)” was a perfect finale. The biggest treat for me would be a stripped down, yet totally rockin’ version of “Low Road” that featured just Grace and the only Nocturnal to join the Roadshow, guitarist Benjamin Yurco.
All of the low points of the show for me are rooted in being an old school Grace fan, which makes me a little biased, due to the amazing things I’ve seen her and The Nocturnals do live. The Midnight Roadshow’s live sound is far less organic and more of a synthetic nature. There is a synthesizer player in the back that provides back-up vocals. Grace never needed back-ups! The synth player also specializes in “Magic Buttons” as Grace put it. The live exploration is gone. There is no jamming or improv, and a bigtime disappointment to me is that Grace waited all the way to the end of the show to play her organ. In my opinion, her organ sounds waaayyyy better than that new synthesizer. Take it all with a grain of salt, people. Each one of these are biased bitches. I am happy to say I have seen what I have seen. Change is a hard pill. I still love her just the same.
To the newbie, Grace Potter blew it out of the park. She led a perfectly planned show start to finish. She covered all the points, most of her latest release as well as key classics. She commanded every inch of the stage and kept the whole crowd on their feet dancing from start to finish, for a solid hour and forty five. Her sound has changed. She plays to a more mainstream crowd. And it is working phenomenally! I can’t harsh on a girl for being successful. The crowds are bigger. The tour is a success, and I can’t say I heard anyone say they were dissatisfied. Grace Potter is a Diva on a mission and right now SHE IS ON FIRE!
SETLIST: Hot to the Touch, Never Go Back, Empty Heart, Ah Mary, Let You Go, Nobody’s Born With a Broken Heart, Biggest Fan, Timekeeper, Apologies (w/ Rayland Baxter), Low Road (Just Grace and Ben), Nothing But the Water Part 1 > Instigators, Your Girl, Delirious, The Lion The Beast The Beat. ENCORE 1: Stars, Medicine. ENCORE 2: Paris(Ooh La La)
Keep up to date with Grace Potter at: http://gracepotter.com/