Grace Potter & The Nocturnals closed out a day of pomp and circumstance with a bang, making President Chris Eisgruber's installation truly a kickass occasion. Their infectious energy emanated out from the picturesque steps of Blair Arch over the entire campus, bringing every student out from the library and every administrator from the office. That's right, President Eisgruber was joined on the lawn by many a Princeton administrator grooving along with Grace Potter -- an entertainer, if there ever was one.
Besides the incredible talent of the band (particularly the drummer, the very fortunate husband of Ms. Potter) and the soaring voice of Grace Potter herself, the most impressive aspect of this show was the consistently high energy level on stage that had even the most laconic in the crowd dancing. Grace Potter really looked the part, decked out in a black blazer paired with a leather skirt and complete with black studded ankle boots. As a woman watching in the audience, I was stunned at how gracefully she moved around the stage with that height on her boots -- but I guess that's just the day-to-day life of a real rock star.
Potter's absolutely perfect voice -- and I mean,perfect -- really stole the show. Fearless and fierce, Potter's rousing wailing never missed the mark. She always hit the sweet spot between losing herself in the moment and controlling the catharsis. And keep in mind, there was such a moment in almost every song they played. It comes as no surprise that she is a trained jazz vocalist. Potter also demonstrated her wide musical range, switching between her guitar (a flying V, in fact) and piano throughout the show. The guitarist also seemed like he was having a good time, and at one point the drummer demonstrated extremely un-drummer-like behavior by letting the rest of the band surround and bang his drum-kit. The clear camaraderie between Grace and her Nocturnals was definitely an added bonus to the stellar performance.
They played many favorites, including "Stars," "The Lion The Beast The Beat," and finally (almost) closing with the killer "Paris (Ooh La La)." They lengthened this last song to great effect and appreciation from the audience. Just when we thought they were done, the band formed a huddle in the middle of the stage -- once dispersed, Potter announced that they were going to try something in honor of Princeton, and particularly in honor of our mascot, but that we were not to be disappointed if they sounded bad because they hadn't planned on performing this. And so it was that Grace Potter & The Nocturnals graced us with their rendition of "Eye of the Tiger" -- a roaring encore, completely exceeding all expectations.In a small meet-and-greet after the show, Potter disclosed that this was only the second time that they had ever played the classic tune, which was remarkable considering how strong it was. Very warm and charming, Potter chatted with campus musicians about her own journey to stardom -- gigging in small jazz bars and campus dives, starting off as a jazz vocalist and eventually meeting her husband-to-be and the rest of the Nocturnals during her college days. She also talked about their recent return -- as in, yesterday -- from Brazil, and the encroaching jet-lag. Not that we could tell -- there seemed to be no lack of vivacity today.