Typically, going into a show and not knowing the opener, I don’t know if it’s going to be a solo person, or a full band, or anything in between. When Devon Gilfillian graced the stage in his yellow striped bell bottoms and long green jacket, as the rest of his band mates took their places, I knew this was going to be special. Boy was I right! Coming from Nashville, they opened the show with ethereal sounds, booming bass lines, accompanied with the delayed but every now and then gritty guitar sounds played by Devon himself. And when he sang, the entire crowd was in awe. Sounding like a mix of Lionel Richie, Jon Legend, and at time Prince, Devon had the crowd in his pocket. Going from My Morning Jacket esque rock songs, to Marvin Gay like ballads, the 30-minute opener could have gone for another 30 minutes and held the crowd on their feet. And also, that dude can shred a guitar!
The stage was set for Grace Potter. Accompanied by a large backdrop of an outline of a red sun, the lights went down, smoke came up, green and black hues filled the stage and sounds of crickets and frogs at a pond filled the theater. The GP band took their places and all of a sudden you could see the outline of Grace’s shadow behind the backdrop. A high pitch howl filled the theatre as she emerged from the shadow. She started with “Daylight,” a slow old bluesy song, that eventually built to a full-on rocker. Her second song, “Love is Love,” which she recently played on Jimmy Kimmel, was a slow country ballad not unlike something Reba McEntire or Dolly Parton would have performed. Soon after, Grace made a point that she knows that puts out the vibe by sitting down, but that sitting down makes her nervous (she smiled and laughed) and there will be times to sit but encouraged everyone to stand and dance. Pretty much after that no one was sitting at all for the rest of the show. Her next song she rocked the place and had various sections of the audience hollering out the song, “Fill Up Your Empty Heart.”
Grace playfully told the audience that she completely messed the set list up and that she never does that, but felt like playing with the Cincinnati audience a little bit. At one point she said she wanted to play a song that was email requested by fans that she had played when she was a guest on “Live from Darryl’s House.” At that point she asked a stagehand for a guitar with a capo on the 3rd fret, and then said to her band “Wait, is it on the 3rd? It’s B flat right?” This branched into her telling a story that one time she saw Bonnie Raitt play when she was younger and that Bonnie played a song in a completely wrong key than the rest of the band, and she said “See even Bonnie messes up,” to which the crowd laughed and applauded.
Later in the show, Grace brought back out the opener Devon Gilfillian and did a fantastic duet cover of Etta James “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which floored the audience once again. For me though, the highlight of the night was the encore. Grace came back out, and said that she normally does this with the band, but this song is more like a prayer than a song, and she wanted to do it solo. The song is called “Release,” and I along with everyone else, was driven to tears from it. It’s a song, in my opinion, about dragging someone through what they might think is love, but is actually pain and suffering, and then realizing what you’ve done, and releasing them from it. Listen to this line... “I release you, from the darkness, from the love that we swore was true. I hope that someday, the sun will shine again, and you’ll’ release me too.” I mean, feels. When she finished, the crowd cheered for what felt like 5 minutes, bringing Grace herself to tears and smiles. She brought the rest of the band up to perform 2 more songs, “Shout it out” and “Stars” and after bowing with the band, huddled up and said “Ok there is a strict curfew here and we only have 7 more minutes with you guys,” and ended up mashing up “Nothing but the Water” into her very first and well known pop rock hit “Paris,” which every single person sang the “Ooh La Las” in unison to.
Grace Potter was not only an amazing show, but it felt personal, and it felt like even for the band, they were not just going through the motions. This was a roller coaster she took us on, and I for one did not want to get off.