Concert of a decade: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter Benny Yurco

Grace Potter and Benny Yurco play the Crystal Bay Casino Sunday, June. 9. Tahoe Onstage image by Tim Parsons

Here’s a hair band anyone would like.

Grace Potter bounced, sang, played electric guitar and keyboards and flipped her blonde hair Sunday during a loud, histrionic rock concert in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room.

As young artists onstage, Blondie, Jewell and Stevie Nicks performed with such glamor and beauty it attracted stares so hard nobody would dare blink. Still in her 20s, Potter is her own frenetic version of a blonde diva, only with Pogo-stick dance moves and the sexual energy of a Tina Turner or Etta James. The concert’s intensity grew all night, climaxing after the third song of the encore set when Potter announced, “This is the last song, and we fucking mean it this time.”

Surprisingly, the Grace Potter and the Nocturnals show did not sell out until the morning of the performance in the venerable venue celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Crown Room has been a bowling alley and a cafeteria and now for a decade a concert hall with national prestige. With new stage lights and a new Gamble console, the room has never looked or sounded better.

More than 600 young fans packed the floor and waited and occasionally let out a cheer, anticipating the arrival of the fashionably late-arriving group from the “Freedom and Unity” state. Yes, Vermont has colorful landscapes, maple syrup, Phish and this band of rockers. The longhairs included drummer Matt Burr, guitarist Benny Yurco, keyboard and electric bassist Michael Limbramento. Scott Tournet, who has cut his hair and is clean shaven, played slide guitar and keyboards.

Potter took the stage wearing a revealing white, sequined gown with an ankle-high hemline. Upon getting everyone’s attention, she strapped on a Gibson Flying V guitar and proceeded to wake up Albert King.

For the third song, Potter moved to the stage’s third keyboard set, which she played much of the night. However, during the well-known hit “Paris (Ooh La La),” she joined three other band mates in a drum session. (No bluegrass on this night, Tahoe.) Potter, naturally, played the deepest bass drum.

On a night warm enough to swim, Potter sang the gospel “Nothing But the Water,” as she tugged at her gown’s tie and invited, “Take me down to the lake.”

The music also touched on soul, R&B, pop, reggae and Potter even sang a part of a tune accompanied only by feedback, call it “rock-a-pella.” But mostly it simply felt like brand-new classic rock.

“You can’t ask for anything more,” concertgoer Julie Rogers said after the show had finished. Rogers said she learned about Potter when the singer collaborated on a couple of songs with country’s Kenny Chesney, “El Cerrito Place” and “You and Tequila.”

County and pop, which are pretty much the same these days, seem ubiquitous on radio and television. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals recently released its fourth CD, “The Lion The Beast The Beat,” a somewhat rare breakthrough album for a straight-ahead rock band.

As the band ascends to arenas and stadiums, it made time to finally make it to the Crystal Bay Casino. Music promoter Brent Harding of Devil Dog Productions said he had tried for several years to book Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

“This is our first time to Lake Tahoe,” Potter said, pausing for effect. “We will definitely be back.”

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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