— Lindsey, Indie Rocker
MR Note: As a Grace Potter fan I find this assessment of her very difficult to swallow, but I believe Lindsey’s account is accurate so I’ll just have enjoy GP only on my iPod.
A few weeks ago I had a love/hate experience at the Avett Brothers concert. Loved the boys, could not stand the chick.
Everyone I talk to about this performance has the same reaction – wide-eyed shock and disbelief. I’m not overly familiar with Grace Potter’s catalogue, but from what I can discern, she’s generally very well-liked. And look, there’s no denying that the woman has a stellar voice, or that there are shades of brilliance in the group’s work – especially when they lay the bluesy vibe on thick. Girlfriend can also kill with the occasional well-placed banshee scream. But the singer’s choices ( a total departure from her old image that included questionable hair extensions, an outfit that I dubbed “Blake Lively’s Embarrassing Aunt”, plus a particularly awful moment we called “the gang bang with the bass drum”) were mortifying.
I hate to be so harsh, but I literally could not get past the ridiculousness for long enough to turn an objective ear toward the music. It didn’t help that the Nocturnals’ set list seemed to fight with itself, often reaching for elements of country, blues, and classic rock, but never fully riding any of them out. Did you ever look at a girl and just know she has bad friends? Like no one was there to say “oh, honey, let’s take the eyeshadow down a notch and check your teeth for extra lipstick”? I’m pretty sure I’m about to mix a metaphor, but that’s the sense I got from this opening act – that nobody’s reining them in, so they’re left flailing.
Moving on to the good stuff.
The Avett Brothers, by contrast, brought a sense of restraint to the stage that I fell in love with from the first twangy chords of “And It Spread.” The band managed to hit all the notes in their repertoire, from the rollicking yee-haw Southern folk of “Blue Ridge Moutain Blues” to the OK-Go-lite sound of “Kick Drum Heart” to a deliciously somber rendition of “Ballad of Love and Hate.”
Apparently, the Avett Brothers’ most die-hard fans are collectively not happy with their set list offerings of late (too many of the new tunes, not enough old stalwarts, etc.). But in my experience, this is just a fact of the matter when a hometown band hits big. The band’s first major label album, 2009’s “I and Love and You”, is a departure from their former Throw-Shit-At-The-Wall-And-See-What-Sticks recording philosophy. This is the inevitable result of the big studio equipment, production and money that come along with a major-label production, and I think it’s totally appropriate that the live show reflects this new direction. The band’s homespun skills (and, hello, dance moves) are still embedded in the fabric of their craft, and for my money, the slightly slicker production values serve only to showcase their talent.
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