Concert Reviews

Over The Weekend: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights at the House of Blues

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights
House of Blues
February 18, 2011

Better than:
watching Almost Famous yet one more time.

Sometimes, tour pairings just make perfect sense. And so it was that Dallas' own Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights came to join Vermont's Grace Potter & The Nocturnals on the latter band's current headlining tour.

After all, the two bands' similarities are plentiful. For starters, the whole frontperson's-name-ampersand-obscure-reference name structure featured by both acts. Then there's the raucous live performance reputation boasted by each. Add in a vague, but undoubtedly '70s influence that reigns over each performers' sound and, hey, you've got two bands primed for pairing.

But, aside from a single one-off show the two found themselves billed together on last year, they'd yet to have had their powers properly combined -- until, that is, this week, when the two kicked off a short tour, with Tyler and Co. opening for Potter and her cohorts.

And, no surprise here, their talents meshed well on Friday night at the House of Blues, as Tyler and The Northern Lights helped welcome Potter and her Nocturnals to their home town.

Starting things off shortly before nine o'clock, Tyler capably warmed the crowd, which, familiar or not with Tyler's hometown roots, was receptive to his band's sound on this night. Understandably so: Performing a set of material, once again, culled from his band's 2010 major label debut, Pardon Me, the band pleased with its blues-rock sound. Guitar riffs induced some fist-pumping and driving blues beats even elicited some dancing amidst the audience.

But, compared to other performances from this outfit, this one felt a little restrained. Maybe an ill-advised and dragging Led Zeppelin cover that felt more like a generic blues-rock jam than an appropriate homage was to blame. Or perhaps it was the fact that this crowd just wanted to see something that Tyler and his band couldn't provide.

The crowd got that -- and then some -- when Potter finally graced the stage.

A Potter performance, even she admits, is a 70-minute offering up of the idea of sex. And, clad in an impossibly short dress that revealed quite nicely the best legs currently seen in rock 'n' roll, Potter was all too happy to hammer this point home. She strutted and posed and coyly maneuvered about the House of Blues stage, sliding in front of, beside and behind her four bandmates, flinging her hair about and shimmying so as to activate the fringes of her dress.

It's a visual splendor, a voyeur's dream, but nonetheless a ploy -- one, it would seem, meant to mask the band's misgivings. Thing is, those weren't too plentiful either. Before a sold-out crowd of adoring fans, Potter and the Nocturnals' theatrical offering went over quite well, referencing the likes of Abba and other golden pop-rock acts of yore than the blues offerings Tyler and Co. had passed along earlier. It was neither style over substance nor the opposite, but rather a smart blending of the two. And, whichever of those the crowd was searching for, they received.

A pleasing set, indeed. But more a sign of the times, perhaps, than anything else. Neither Potter nor Tyler's band is reinventing the wheel -- they're simply offering up their own brands of well-worn territory, more conjuring ideas of something fans yearn for than actually providing something substantive upon which they can stand on their own.

Considering, though, that both Tyler and Potter are both celebrating breakthrough releases of sorts, and still quite young acts as bands go, that's a fine enough start,

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've seen Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights live enough to appreciate what it is that they do. But, at this point, I'm mostly looking forward to what's coming next. Where their sound goes from this solid base they've built will be truly revealing, as pertains to their career arc. And they truly do deserve some respect, as one of the few area bands around that really walks the walk when it comes to serious touring outside of the region. As for Potter, well, hey, a brother wanted to see some legs.

Random Note: Even less surprising than Potter's short attire (which she posts to Twitter on a near-nightly basis, very clearly reveling in her fans' adoration of her garb) was the fact that this was a pretty white, middle class audience. Way to be, suburbs. Way to be.

By The Way:
The House of Blues' main bathrooms flooded about halfway through the set. Kudos to the staff for cleaning them in a timely, and largely undetected fashion, but, man, it created some problems when the closes available bathroom that fans were being directed towards were four flights of stairs away.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman