Muses: An Ode to Grace

The Muses of Greek mythology had to be women. I understand that now, after seeing rock goddess Grace Potter weave gold spindles of inspiration from her stage perch on an unseasonably warm November evening.

Because of her, I’m ready to write a sonnet, or at least a few paragraphs. Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, Urania. And Grace.

A thin but vibrant crowd formed at Rams’ Head Live, Baltimore’s multi-tiered, midlevel music club off of Pratt St. near the Inner Harbor, Monday night. Lesbian couples, 30 somethings on first dates, pockets of gay men, frat brothers in football jerseys, were scattered in twos and threes along the concert floor and by the back bars. Bartenders poured Fordham Lager into clear plastic cups. An HD flatscreen whirled luminescent with the Ravens’ Monday contest against, the Cleveland Browns while the opening act, a guitar/peddle steel alt-country duo, plowed through the final numbers in their set.

Flacco failed to convert a third down, forcing the punt team out. On stage, roadies positioned bunches of roses atop amplifiers and tied microphone stands.

Then.

Then, Grace.

Lights fade dim. A limber vision of an artist, sweet and serene, fitted in a black dress, floats on stage. Somewhere, a football game I care about is lost in the metallic glow of HD. And a voice, soaked in red wine and heartbreak, forces the crowd to attention.

There are artists who’s sexual prowess transcends gender. The energy radiating from their voices, sweating from their pores taps into the audiences’ primeval lust. Think Fankie Mercury at Live Aid. Or David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Janis Joplin singing Piece of My Heart. It’s the difference between Melissa Ethridge and Joss Stone in this 2005 Grammy performance. Ethridge has the edge, Stone doesn’t. It’s raw, frank, as innate as the beauty of a birdsongs.

Grace is bathed in this ether, and when she sings, there are few better natural intoxicants.

Not that the visual aides are weak. This is a vivacious female. She hit the stage in a black cocktail dress draped in frills, and when she’d dance, the frills would dance about her curves, more ample than a first glance initially merits, a whirlwind of exposed skin and blackness and heat. Her look is rooted in 60s rock, but she’s beyond channeling Joan Jett. This is vibrancy is written in her DNA code.

Listen to the swell in ‘Nothing But the Water.’ It doesn’t stab directly at the heart, it cuts through it, jabbing, almost viciously, at that nerve center of the everlasting soul. Lyrics reverberate with a raw, human pain, then bounce up with rejuvenation, sprinkled with gospel and guitar riffs.

The instrumentation is strong. Scott Touret and Benny Yurko rock some sweet lead and rythmn guitars. Bassist Catherine Popper conveys a more haunted sexual vibe that works in contrast to Grace. Matt Burr bangs the drumheads like Animal from the Muppet Show.

It’s Grace, though, that delivers the existential gut punch. Her, with flying V guitar draped across her waist, the blues chords on the mini-B3 organ, the shimmy across stage and the talent to carve a music venue  with her lyrics.

In Jacques Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann” a Muse appears and reveals to the audience that her purpose is to draw the writer Hoffmann’s attention to herself, and to make him abjure all other loves, so he can be devoted fully to her. If only, Grace…

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