November 20, 2009

Grace Potter, with Brett Dennen, at the House of Blues

Many times in the past two years I have thought -- even planned -- to see Grace Potter in concert. Each time there was a reason it didn't happen. But last Thursday, it finally did, at the House of Blues and it was everything I expected. The word was that if you hadn't heard Grace live, you really hadn't heard her, and this is true. The albums do not do her justice. There is an electricity to her, and it runs right through her body from her fluttering fingertips, to her hair-waving head, right down to her high-heeled shoed feet. Whether she's fronting the band playing slide on her flying V or from her perch at her Hammond organ, Grace Potter is in full throttle. I always like to ask myself, "what does this band want to be"? For Grace and the Nocturnals, I think they'd like to be the female Allman Brothers. And they've got a pretty great start. They've added a second guitarist, Benny Yurco, and have a new female bass player, Catherine Popper, a strong voice to the mix which includes longtime Nocturnals lead guitarist Scott Tournet and drummer Matt Burr. They look like they are having a blast up there, smiling away while blasting through "Ah, Mary," showing off their new dueling lead guitars on one of their new songs, and meeting together on the center stage floor for a kneeling group guitar jam during "Stop the Bus." They have always fit comfortably amid the jam band scene, but they are able stand out a bit from the pack, because of Grace. Not only is she a woman (and a great-looking woman!) amid the sea of guys, but her songwriting is also stronger than most in the jammy genre. She debuted six new songs, including one called "Tiny Light," which starts slowly and builds to a rocking crescendo filled with guitar feedback. She wound up nearly two hours onstage with an encore of the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," which fit her band perfectly. She closed the show with her a cappella-to-full blown rocker "Nothing But the Water."
A couple of other notes: I wasn't sure what the crowd would be like for the show. I was initially worried that the place would seem empty. But I was pleasantly surprised. I estimate the crowd at a couple thousand, filling about three-quarters of the place. Brett Dennen was a pleasant surprise and weird sort of cat. And he's got quite a fan base. When he was onstage, the front of the house was packed. It seemed to be less crowded when Grace came on... like all Brett's fans either left or moved back to the bars. That was fine. It left more room for Grace's fans -- which included a large majority of college girls (unusual for a jam band) -- to dance.
One more note about Brett Dennen. He's an odd mix of performer, not really sure where to place him. He's got a unique-sounding voice, a huge mop of hair, and has the stage presence -- dancing and moving his hips that puts him somewhere between Neil Diamond and David Bowie.
All in all, a really fun show.
Check out some great photos from the show (not mine, which were shit), HERE and HERE
Also, a video (not mine, either) from the show of new song "Only Love")

The setlist (from the blog This Is Somewhere)
Stop the Bus (not on setlist, played after mention of bus fire incident)
Goodbye Kiss
Ah, Mary
Big White Gate
Things I Never Needed
Low Road
Only Love
If I Was From Paris
Tiny Light
Sweet Hands
Watching You
White Rabbit
Nothing But The Water I
Nothing But The Water II

November 17, 2009

Regina Spektor at the House of Blues

Forgot to post this review when I wrote it... Here it is...

Regina Spektor
At the House of Blues, Sept. 22

Standing in line before the show, you would not have guessed you were at a concert with fervent Regina Spektor fans. The mostly 20-something college crowd was content conversing, texting, even doing their homework. But once they were inside the House of Blues entrance, and had enjoyed the decent opening act Little Joy and what seemed like an interminable equipment setup, the crowd got what they came for.
From the moment Regina strode on stage, love was in the air.
As she sat down to her piano for the first tune, “The Calculation,” off her new album “Far,” whooping and hollering and multiple calls of “I love you” filled the hall. Regina genuinely smiled, and almost embarrassingly responded “I love you, too.”
Sitting behind a grand piano and backed by a drummer, a violinist and a cellist, she performed most of her new album, including “Folding Chair,” “Dance Anthem of the ’80s,’’ and “Two Birds.”
“Far” was only released in late June, yet the audience seemed to know every word of every song and sang along in mostly hushed tones so as not to drown out the main attraction. It actually made for an interesting effect since they seemed to know every nuanced turn of the sometimes complicated vocal acrobatics. And luckily for them, Regina didn’t stray too far from the originals.
Among the highlights was an amped-up version of “Eet,” on which she played on electric organ, and “Fidelity” and “On the Radio” from her “Begin to Hope” album. She also played a short set of solo tunes from “Soviet Kitsch” on her fabulous green Gretsch guitar.
At one point, sound from her piano was giving her trouble so she spontaneously performed a song about eye color done a cappella.
Her encore was a thing of beauty. After playing “Samson” and “Fidelity,” she brought out a shofar to help ring in the Jewish new year. And she ended the night with what she called her first-ever, unrecorded country song “Love, You’re a Whore,” which brought the crowd to a roar.
Too bad the audience didn’t know the words. They would have loved to sing along.