January 29, 2016
House of Blues
Grace Potter is a badass. Last Friday night, the true performer commandeered House of Blues from the time she emerged from the faux fog to her retreat back into the darkness nearly two hours later. In between, she had the crowd hanging on her every note, shimmy, pose and request.
The incredibly sensual performance opened with “Hot to the Touch” from Potter's recent solo album, Midnight; no Nocturnals this time, but the group’s songs dotted the evening’s set list. The night wasn’t too heavy on the brand-new material, which kept longtime fans enthralled and engaged with the performance. The venue was a bit too packed for the crowd to really let loose and dance the way they wanted, but that didn’t keep them from moving. Her shows are fun, full of energy and sexy.
Potter’s supporting band was large, consisting of two guitarists, two drummers (on two full drum kits à la Def Leppard), a bassist and a keyboardist. Potter herself often accompanied them on an acoustic guitar or with her signature Gibson Flying V guitar.
The band’s soulful rock and roll sounds produced many strong moments throughout the evening, but a trio of songs mid-set stood out, launched with the deep bass grooves of “Your Girl” and into “Delirious” and “Alive Tonight." These songs seemed to encompass all the talents of Potter and her bandmates. Part of what makes her shows so special is that fans are not going to hear a simple rendition of a track straight from the album. Each and every song is going to be extended by wailing guitars that are flipped, chopped, broken down and then put back together perfectly.
Part of Potter’s talent is getting the crowd in her palm. She did it this time by talking of how Houston puts her under a spell, and Friday was no different. She gushed about loving the beautiful people of our city, and how she always feels a special energy that we give out, even encouraging everyone to be topless and take off their clothes. (A handful of the crowd obliged.) She has such a dramatic flair as an entertainer, constantly capturing the eyes and attention of the crowd. So many poses she struck Friday could have been the inspiration for the classic American Idol silhouettes.
Potter said several times that she was legally blind and asked that the large television monitors posted above the bars displaying the bar menu be turned off because they could cause her to fall off the stage. Speaking of blindness, it is also worth noting that the House of Blues’ stage lighting is consistently some of the best in town; however, Potter’s setup was a step above. It was quite reminiscent of the showroom at Cheap Lights, which blinds you when you drive by that store on I-45 North.
The group shut the night down with the popular fan favorite singalong "Paris (Ooh La La)." As with nearly every other song, it saw an adjusted arrangement that had all eight performers gathering around the two full drum kits, banging away into the night.
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Personal Bias: There were times that as a photographer, I felt she and I were at a one-on-one boudoir photo shoot: She taking clothes off and putting something else on, posing with incredible energy, until bumping into another photographer in the pit and snapping back to reality to realize a few thousand people were around. Grace is pure gold for the lens.
How was the Crowd? More mature but rambunctious, and well-versed in Grace’s exploits. A small group of ladies had traveled across the country over the years to watch Potter play from L.A. to New York, and Friday they were on a weekend Texas road trip through Dallas, Houston and finally Austin. It brought up the question of what Grace Potter fanatics are called. “Pot Heads”? “Crack Pots”? Simply “Potters”?
Random Notebook Dump: It is quite common for fans to get the set lists, guitar picks and other cherished souvenirs that bands leave onstage after the show. Here, the roadies immediately stripped the set lists from the floor and threw them in the trash, leaving the Pot Heads to unsuccessfully beg the crew to get them out of the backstage trash.