The combination of blue sky overhead, a warm sun and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performing on stage Sunday evening was too much for thousands to resist.

Stella Sexton, director of the Long's Park Amphitheater Foundation's summer music series, estimated 8,000 people packed the lawn in front of the bandshell for the kickoff to the 13-week concert series.

"It was an awesome turnout for opening week," Sexton said. "Between the weather and how popular Grace Potter is - the people came out in good numbers."

Just two days before the release of their new album, Potter and her four-member band, the Nocturnals, took the crowd on a nearly two-hour adventure Sunday that was at times quietly soulful and, at others, hard rocking.

Fans knew they were in for a show when Potter strutted out on stage, clapping her hands over her head, to open the show with "Joey." She was wearing an ultra-short, fire-engine-red dress, gold high-heeled shoes and sunglasses.

With a voice that's equal parts Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and Stevie Nicks, Potter is as captivating to listen to as she is to watch.

Tossing her blond hair back and forth while skipping across the stage, she led the Nocturnals through an early series of fast-paced tunes, including "Goodbye Kiss," "Money" and "Only Love."

The band then slowed things down with a few acoustic tunes - "Ain't No Time" and "Ragged" - before charging back with a Rolling Stones-like rendition of "Ah Mary."

Between Potter's keyboards and the guitar licks from Scott Tournet - who is the spitting image of Creed frontman, Scott Stapp, by the way - the next song, "Oasis," had a Santana flavor.

Potter next got out from behind the keyboards and picked up a Flying V guitar to lead the band through "Here's to the Meantime."

The band finished the show's regular set with "Medicine."

Potter picked up the Flying V again to open the encore set with a performance of Blondie's "Heart of Glass."

Even though she put her own spin on the song, if you closed your eyes, it was easy to imagine Debbie Harry on stage singing.

Next up in the Long's Park concert series is Dr. Ralph Stanley & his Clinch Mountain Boys, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. June 13.

All of the concerts in the series are free to attend.

preilly@lnpnews.com