|Butch Walker - London, The Borderline - 18th July 2011|
|Written by Russ P|
|Monday, 25 July 2011 05:00|
It's often said that Butch Walker has something of a cult following here in the UK. But walk into tonight's sold out Borderline show and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Eddie Vedder, or some other supergroup's frontman was playing a one-off show tonight.
This then, obviously, is my first experience of Butch Fever - not even Saturday Night Butch Fever but Monday night.
Everyone is packed crotch to ass here tonight and I wonder if I've walked into the wrong Soho club. I also wonder if the staff here have a phrase 'Borderline insanity' because as Butch comes onstage the crowd makes more noise than the proverbial amp cranked up to 11.
After Butch Fever I experience the 'Butch Effect' which is to take it down more than a few notches as he sits down at the piano to a totally hushed audience and starts the opening bars to 'ATL'. The respect between artist and fans is apparent. And Butch needs every scrap of attention and silence in order to travel through the dynamics. But when he's done…oops there go my eardrums…if the crowd stayed this loud during the songs Butch would have to retire from live performances like The Beatles did.
And that would be a shame - more than a shame - because that's exactly what has drawn me here tonight. For all Butch's expertise in the studio I fell for his live material more after listening to 'This Is Me…Justified And Stripped', 'Cover Me Badd' and 'Leavin' The Game On Luckie Street'. It's only live that I personally think that you get to see the real Butch - sure he's flesh and blood right in front of you but it's more than that. It's the symbiotic relationship between him and his fans. They bring out the best in one another. What I'm seeing here tonight holds with what I've heard from his live recordings. Butch is funny, relaxed, spontaneous and king of the one liners: "Drinking is something that makes piano playing interesting." There's no front to the man. No barriers. Which makes seeing him live a special experience.
Following on from 'ATL' Butch stays low key for the equally dynamic 'Joan'. You could hear a pin drop the audience is so quiet. "Where've you been?" someone demands. "Working in Starbucks. Saving up for another tour." Butch shyly drawls back before turning to a second piano and to the song 'Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You' - another delicately sung piece.
'Going Back / Going Home' sees Butch reach for his guitar for the first time. He ups the pace with 'Closer To The Truth And Further From The Sky' with the audience relishing the shouted sing-a-long which continues into 'Uncomfortably Numb'.
It's after 'Pretty Melody' that Butch introduces his absent band to the fans' amusement: "So this is my band the Black Widows. That's Jake. There's Fran…Chris." All this to precursor new track from 'The Spade', a track that he wrote while on tour here last year, called 'Dublin Crow' - a folky stomper that recalls everything from Zeppelin to Queen to The White Stripes. Aided and abetted by the audience Butch is able to take the track down to just claps and stomps in sections before bringing the guitar back in. The stomp carries on into 'The Weight Of Her' and so does the singing which could fill a football stadium.
Butch makes reference to his fans speculative tweeting about whether he's going to play any covers this evening before strumming up his own British mixtape with Pulp's 'Common People', James' 'Laid' and his own 'The Taste Of Red'.
As Butch quite rightly points out about rock and roll: "All three chords have been taken" and gives us an example as he blurs the lines between The Commodores 'Easy' and 'Here Comes The…'. Another new track 'Closest Thing To You I'm Gonna Find' follows before Butch plays another flurry of songs from 'Letters' peaking with '3 Kids In Brooklyn' from 'Sycamore Meadows' which, helped along by the mandolin, transforms into another rootsy stomp signalling the end of the show.
Butch returns and ends the night by phoning his parents over in the US and treating them, and us, to an explosive rendition of new song, but already a massive fan favourite, 'Summer of '89'.
Did I say that Butch ends the night there? Rather it's me running for the last train home while Butch and his faithful friends carry on without me. At least my retreat affords me a natural fade out as I could never stand stopping a song abruptly in the middle.