Occasionally, talentless people become successful in every walk of life. However, once in a while an exceptionally talented musician achieves merited success. John Butler falls firmly into the second category. Gracious, humble and hugely skilled (and “sex on legs” according to State’s companion tonight), he’s a great songwriter and entertainer to boot.
Storming onto the stage with a cracking sharp version of -Used to Get High’, the John Butler Trio set the upbeat tone for a raucous night with their goodtime blend of reggae, pop and rock. This is the opening night of a full European tour to promote the newly released April Uprising. The Australian roots trio, led by the charismatic John Butler, give a committed quality performance running through tracks from all of their albums. Perhaps not surprisingly, tonight features a healthy selection of tracks from the new album, the highlights of which are -Don’t Wanna See Your Face’ and the rocking power punk pop single -Close To You’. There are a couple of errors mid-set – including Butler starting the wrong song at one point and then performing the intro to -Losing You’ in the wrong key for his guest Mama Kin – but this only adds to the charm of the evening, rather than hampering the audience’s enjoyment.
He also performs a handful of tracks alone on stage and some with full band plus members of Mama Kin’s support. Changing guitars more times than Madonna changes costumes (slide, Dobro, electric, semi-acoustic) his versatility ensures that even on an acoustic or semi he’s able to fill the room with sound and have the high notes scream, helped in part by an arsenal of pedals and accessories which never detract from the music. Possibly his most popular song, and definitely the most affecting, is the self-penned instrumental -Oceans’, a 12 minute opus that, like other aspects of his show, have probably changed little since his days busking in Perth and Fremantle. The anthemic sound of -Zebra’ is given a rousing singalong that gets everyone in the crowd excited.
Whether Butler is alone or with the bass and drums, the sound and entertainment level are excellent but a John Butler show is always just that – -plus guests’. He works hard to keep it together and leads the show but when all three band members (Byron Luiters, Nicky Bomba and Butler) beat the drums in time it’s a primitive but genuinely exciting way to climax the show. A great advert for the new album and an exciting evening of quality music encompassing the reggae, dancehall and folk roots of this rock sound.
Photos by Julie Bienvenu.