Grace Potter & the Nocturnals are clearly doing something right. The indie-rock five-piece has been seen and heard just about everywhere the past few years, including on TV shows The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Good Morning America, as well as a Bonnaroo performance. Their blues-tinged music has been heard on ER and Grey’s Anatomy, and their past two records, 2010’s self-titled release and 2012’s The Lion the Beast the Beat, have landed in the top 20 of Billboard’s Top 200 chart. Such a ubiquitous presence must be the result of some secret formula, so what is it about the band that has made them so popular?
It is unavoidable that at least some of their success is because of Potter’s vocal and visual sex appeal. Maybe you’ve heard the steamy song “Paris (Ooh La La)” or even seen the video. No? Go Google it, take a cold shower when you’re done and then come back. You’re welcome.
Having said all that, their music isn’t just wall-to-wall lyrical seduction. Potter, for example, nails some skyscraping vocals on the lonely slow rocker “Stars,” singing with all the passion of someone who doesn’t care if she’s sharing her misery with five thousand people in an amphitheater or five people at a dive bar. She can be mournful and lovelorn just as easily as she can be a siren, which makes the band’s music more well-rounded and human.
The band is also not content to just do the same thing over and over just because it works. “One Short Night” features Potter channeling a bit of Stevie Nicks, while the ’70s-style soft rock of “Low Road” proves the band knows how to slow things down when they need to. “Timekeeper” even has a ’60s-style doo-wop feel to it with repetitive, hypnotic piano guiding the beat. The Lion the Beast the Beat also shows more broadly that Potter and Co. can do more than just seduce and give you a good time; they can also break your heart, as tracks like “Loneliest Soul” and “One Heart Missing” delve into the sadness that relationships can bring to people, whether they are paired up or not.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have succeeded because they know how to give the listener a little bit of everything. Sure, there is some sex and rock & roll swagger in their music, but they also prove they can kick your ass just as well by breaking your heart.
GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS
w/ Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
300 Wakara Way
Sunday, June 16 , 7 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. / free