WILKES-BARRE — With an eclectic mix of traditional blues, power pop and straight-up hard rock, Grace Potter charmed fans young, old and in-between during a nearly two-hour long set at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on July 29.
The show opened at 8 p.m. with Philadelphia-born opening act, Eliza Hardy Jones, who doubles as Grace Potter’s backup vocalist and keyboardist.
Jones’ style came as a marked contrast from the sounds that would come from Potter later in the show. Jones, who has been touring with Potter for some time, abandons much of the edge that Potter employs, favoring a dreamier sound, complete with spacey guitars reminiscent of post-rock and even shoegaze acts.
After Jones’ set and an intermission, Potter took the stage. With a powerful voice with just a twinge of a rasp and a flowing, flowery top, Potter seemed to simultaneously channel Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks.
Potter, who has made a career on blending styles and genres, sought to please fans of all stages in her career, playing songs from both her recent solo album, 2015’s “Midnight,” and from her 14-year-old band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
Potter kicked off with “Hot to the Touch,” the opening track to her album. With a dreamy intro and explosive chorus, the song instantly showed off her powerful voice.
From there, the set moved into some songs with the Nocturnals, which took influence from a variety of genres, including traditional blues and doo-wop on “Timekeeper.” The band turned “Loneliest Soul,” a song that barely cracks 3 1/2 minutes on the album, into an extensive, improvised jam that could be placed squarely in-between the styles of improvisational greats like Santana and Phish.
Before her performance of “Low Road,” Potter took the opportunity to speak directly to the audience, while a guitarist quietly performed a solo next to her. She explained her goal of writing the song was to communicate something.
“Music is more than just a language,” Potter said. “It’s a way of communicating without language.”
Throughout the set, Potter would break into improvised vocal performances of other songs during instrumental breaks of her own, working “Hit the Road Jack” and a stylized version of the original “Star Trek” theme song over guitar solos, and shifting Prince’s “When Doves Cry” into an acoustic intro to the Nocturnals’ track, “Stars.”
Potter wrapped up the show with an encore performances that consisted of a small set of some of the most popular songs from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ catalog, “The Lion the Beast the Beat” and “Paris (Ooh La La).” This final song featured a drum performance from every member of the band, with the seven-piece outfit abandoning their typical instruments and taking on a small section of the two drum sets on stage.
Fans seemed totally entranced by Potter’s performance, leaving their seats and dancing in the Kirby Center aisles, prompting Potter to call her fans “great dancers.”
If you missed Grace Potter’s performance at the F.M. Kirby Center, her tour has dates slated until the beginning of October, with one more stop in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, in Johnstown at the Flood City Music Festival.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6119