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State Theatre Graced by Band

“Ah Mary
She’ll make you cookies
Then she’ll burn your town
Ah Mary
Ashes ashes but she won’t fall down”

Perhaps this song should actually be called “Ah Grace” instead of “Ah Mary”, for it surely describes a woman of power and of substance, and ultimately a woman without fear. Last night at the State Theatre on College Avenue, Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals certainly showed herself to be a strong woman who wasn’t afraid of belting out vocals with true feeling.

Yet this has been a band that hasn’t been afraid…of well, much. They’re not in it to become the next big thing – they’re here about the music. Despite critical acclaim – “One of the most soulful new bands around” according to Bonnie Raitt – and growing popularity, the band refused to cash into the main stream. After their 2005 release of “Nothing but the Water”, they finally signed with Hollywood Records, yet this never tempered their deep streak of independence. Potter and the Nocturnals released their third album “This Is Somewhere” last year and have been on tour since. When they came to State College last night, the band certainly demonstrated why their organic style is so appealing.

Read the rest of the review after the jump.

Consider that GPN (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals) played for a two-thirds full theatre as if it were a crowd of 5000. Consider that Grace dedicated one of her songs to a woman she’d met in town that had lost her husband. Consider that your very own Onward State investigative journalists/photographers stumbled upon Matt Burr(drummer) and Grace Potter grabbing supplies next door and Matt willingly obliged us a picture for Natty Nittany. There was humanness to this band that was incredibly appealing – in whatever they do, they seem to do it with soul.

From GPN’s most plaintive songs last night like “Apologies” to a cover of the Stone’s “Paint It Black”, this rock and roll band was all about soul. The riffs that emanated from Scott Tournett’s electric guitar had an Allman Brothers’ quality – a bluesy southern sound that warmed the most northern heart and got the most frost bitten toes tappin’. Complimenting this finger pickin’ delight was Bryan Dondero – a former Penn Stater actually – on the bass. In GPN’s “typical” unique style Bryan also played the laser – yes, the laser. I didn’t catch the full name of the instrument, but it gave many an intro an ethereal quality that seemed to defy the rock and roll formula. And finally, pardon the Allman Brothers reference again, but like a Dickey Betts (minus the guitar) with taste was our very own stylin’ Matt Burr on the drums; let’s just say this man doesn’t miss a beat.

All in all it was an excellent performance by everyone involved… yet perhaps this review comes on a bit too strong considering the absence of a crowd and the fact that I could barely spit of the words “GGGrace PPPPotter” when they introduced themselves while picking up supplies. I mean, were they really that good? Well, yes, because the music was heartfelt and strong. Instead of playing for numbers, they played to people: Grace Potter and the Nocturals played to a true crowd. They weren’t afraid to interact with us; they weren’t afraid to get us dancing; they weren’t afraid to put on a good show. At the end of the night when the crowd cheered for an encore, they said yes with a rousing rendition of “Nothing but the Water.” Nobody stayed sitting. And everybody was satisfied.

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