Newton Faulkner was the support, full of energy and excitement his set got the ball rolling in the right direction. A halo of ginger dreadlocks a slight giveaway to his folk based style of music. With great wit and charisma he introduced his songs; his voice accompanied by a guitar and his thumb tapping beat. His songs are intelligently composed with a spattering of comical anecdotes that allows you to instantly warm to them.
After finishing one of his own songs he played what he said to be the only real cover version he plays. 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack was a completely unexpected twist to his set, the strong beat knocked out on the body of his acoustic guitar, this was a great moment. A little banter with the crowd ended with a little Acoustic Jungle music that wouldve had even the most hardcore jungle fan pulling moves on the floor. The swift thirty minute set seemed to be over too soon but as he said, another gig on the other side of town awaited.
Six months ago if you asked the person sitting next to you if theyd heard of the John Butler Trio (JBT), all you would get in response was a shrug of the shoulders. If you were lucky you might get a follow up question to find out what it was or who they were; things are slowly changing. Grand National went straight to number one in the Australian album charts and sold three times the previous and recent weeks sales of number one albums (www.johnbutlertrio.com). This is an astonishing achievement for any band, it baffles me why they havent been given more media coverage in the UK. After they appeared at Glastonbury Festival in 2005, word started to spread. As a result their fan base in the UK maybe fairly small but they would do almost anything to get to a gig.
When I chat to friends about JBT they ask me to describe the kind of music it is. The simple answer is that its every kind of music, from roots to reggae, from rock and funk to folk. JBT are able to create such a rich tapestry of sound that nothing seems to be beyond their remit. When listening to an album it is hard to keep telling yourself that there are only three members of the band.
Butler himself is a confident and self assured man; he sings about his family a lot and also puts a lot of the worlds problems to rights through his music. His stage presence was extraordinary, although sitting to play the two and a quarter hour long set, he commanded full attention.
Better Than was the opener and the party started instantly. An explosion of dancing with Butlers gentle but strong voice filling the main space, the banjo providing the rhythm.
It is hard to ignore the fact that this man is a true master of his art. The intensity of the emotion produced through his playing sometimes too much to bear. Many songs from the new album were played with flawless expertise. Good Excuse and Funky Tonight were great chances to dance and get friendly with whoever happened to be standing next to you. It is so rare to see every person in an audience with a huge smile on their face.
It would be a great dishonour not to mention the contribution of the rest of the band here. Michael Barker on percussion and Shannon Birchall on Bass added extra depth to and already breathe taking show. I have never seen anyone play slap bass using a double bass, but there it was; an incredible sight. Percussionists often have a hard time of it, being the butt of the joke all the time but I honestly wouldnt know how to pick fault with his playing. During the new single Funky Tonight, he was playing the drum kit single handily whilst playing the djembes with the other, his ten minute drum solo a sight to behold.
Peaches and Cream saw the audience in fine voice as the track was sung by all from start to finish. Butler appeared to be genuinely touched by the way the crowd engaged with the whole event. Groovin Slowly provided some much appreciated reggae vibes and a little respite from the uncontrollable urge to dance.
When I caught up with him after the gig he looked very tired as one would expect after being on tour for months on end. This one off show in London was an experience not to be missed!
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