REVIEW: Grace Potter Turns Up the Heat at Rev Room [5-23-11]

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals COMPLETELY BLEW AWAY a packed house at Rev Room Sunday night in Little Rock.

She took requests all day via Twitter and Facebook for the setlist, and during the show she said it was an all-request setlist, which she dubbed “#themostinterestingsetlistintheworld” when she Tweeted it today.

I don’t know if it was the most “interesting” setlist in the world, but I know it was the most impressive rock show I’ve seen all year by anyone, male or female, at any level. The touching, short-and-sweet marriage proposal onstage by a fan to his girlfriend in the middle of the show didn’t hurt either. (She said yes, after which GPN covered Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” with a lot of help on vocals from the crowd.)

So it’s no secret that Grace Potter herself is the hottest thing in music since, I don’t know, compact discs. I’ve seen her on TV and on YouTube and have been mightily impressed with her powerful, explosive vocals; her showmanship and raw sexuality; and her ability to scream — almost squeal — the highest notes you have ever heard come out of a human’s mouth and still sound great and right on key.

But I still was totally unprepared for the mind-blowing performance I witnessed Sunday night. Seriously.

She opened with “Only Love,” which was awesome and set a good, upbeat tempo for the rest of the evening. Next was “Joey,” a song whose lyrics she sang as though she’d been living in a trailer park in backcountry Arkansas all her life struggling through poverty and an abusive relationship.

But besides being struck by the fact that her lyrics and style are so, well, Southern despite her Vermont upbringing, I was literally mesmerized by her sexiness. And I am as straight as can be, for the record.

The deal is, Grace Potter DEFINES sexiness when she’s performing. She throws those arms up, dances her hands through the air, tosses her long locks of blonde hair (often) to the beat, shakes her perfectly shaped midsection (dressed in a tight, low-cut shimmering gold minidress at Rev Room) every few measures, all the while strutting back and forth, alternating between the Fender guitar and mike at centerstage and the Hammond organ at stage left.  She OWNS that stage, and when she’s strutting around it, doing her thing, you’d swear you’d trade a sibling to just be part of her gang for five minutes. She’s THAT cool — she makes the Fonz seem like Gomer Pyle.

So all this is running through my head, and she goes into her third song, “Hot Summer Night,” which is my least fave on her new self-titled CD. Or WAS my least fave, I should say. Damn.

She rocked it. It took about 16 measures and I was hooked. She took a song I consider average or maybe slightly above and turned it into a rock anthem that gave me goosebumps and literally got me jumping up and down — along with the rest of the wild-eyed fans around me, all of us stunned by what we were witnessing.

Toward the peak of “Hot Summer Night,” as she’s pounding the keys and singing her guts out, she does this screaming-the-note thing — which never, ever appeals to me from any singer until now — where she bares her unbelievable vocal range, hitting all the notes from low to high and far exceeding any high note Mariah Carey ever even dreamed of.

I am not making this up! The hairs on my neck stood up, and the crowd went nuts. It was just unreal. This woman is a rockstar if I ever heard one.

The rest of the setlist:

“Low Road”

“Money”

“Tiny Light”

“Colors”

“Lose Some”

“Ah Mary”

“Bus”

(marriage proposal)

“Take My Breath Away” cover

“Big White Gate”

“White Rabbit” (which rocked harder than any version I’ve ever heard, including the original, no kidding!)

“Goodbye Kiss” (lots of ladies in the crowd singing along on this one; expected this one to be a little boring but it wasn’t AT ALL.)

“Medicine”

And let me tell you, by the time GPN finished with the finale track, there was not a soul in the building who didn’t believe wholeheartedly that Grace Potter doesn’t truly have the Medicine That Everybody Wants.

For the encore, of course, she did “Paris,” even though it was past time for her to be finished. And it wasn’t a rushed version, either; she brought the house down yet again.

I cannot say enough how impressed I am after seeing this woman perform. This was, HANDS DOWN, THE best performance I have seen all year at Rev Room, possibly the best ever (Mute Math is still in the running for that title), and it was possibly the best performance I’ve ever seen in Little Rock period.

If you weren’t there, I’m sorry for you friends. If you were, you know I’m telling the truth… and you will be there with me again if she comes back before she blows up too much to play such an intimate venue again.

Word on the street is her brand new song with Kenny Chesney is about to hit the airwaves and make her a “radio star,” so who knows what the future holds for her. All I can do is repeat my Tweet from mid-show last night: Grace Potter can scream at me any day! Wow, what a voice. What a rockstar. What a show.

Thanks to Chris King and Suzon Awbrey for all they do for the Central Arkansas live music scene and for making Rev Room a reality and bringing great artists and performances like this to Little Rock! Love Live Music, y’all!