Grace Potter & the Nocturnals’ “new” look is about 40 years old. In 2002, when they were starting out, the band’s look was “indie-rocker from the farm.” The Nocturnals were hayseeds, and Potter was the multi-instrumentalist with a vulnerable but tomboyish vocal. It was part of her appeal. By 2007’s This Is Somewhere, Potter, while always easy on the eyes, had almost become one of the guys. Not so much, now. Potter has hotted up the image. Her makeover includes miniskirts and often platform heels, and the rest of the Nocturnals seem to have cemented their relationship with the 1960s. It’s as if the entire band got a gift certificate to Buffalo Breath. But how about the music? These days, the Nocturnals pretty much sound like they look: eclectic retro.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals is currently touring behind their self-named third studio album. They’ve ditched the jam-band tendencies and the indie-pop stance and have moved toward an eclectic mix of sounds that relive the spirit of the hard-rocking bands from San Francisco and Laurel Canyon during the late ’60s. “Paris (Ooh La La)” is an updated Big Brother & the Holding Company; “One Short Night” and “Goodbye Kiss” have the sweet architecture of a Judy Collins radio hit. And there’s a convincing Nocturnals cover of the Airplane’s stoner anthem “White Rabbit” that found its way onto Almost Alice, a compilation inspired by Tim Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland.
Critics may find the Nocturnals’ music as recycled as their threads, but what’s not to like? Every inch of the territory they inhabit was once music-industry gold, and Grace Potter sings like there’s no tomorrow. Why are they not more popular?
GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS: House of Blues, Thursday, February 3, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $17.50, $32.50.