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Butch Walker At The Teragram Ballroom, Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Butch Walker
Butch Walker

Can anyone tell me why Butch Walker is not a bigger star? Sure, he sold out two nights at the Teragram Ballroom this week and his fans had packed the venue twice, but this man puts such an insane amount of enthusiasm into a live performance, that people who were not attending the show don’t know what they missed. I knew very little about him, but a few months ago, he made a noticeable appearance at a benefit show and this made me ask for more. I am obviously late to the Butch Walker party, and I could tell that his following is a very dedicated bunch when I looked around me during the show. Many songs were sing-alongs and during the request part of the show – Butch drew requests from fans from his impressive catalog – the crowd was finishing each line he had half-forgotten. This was one of the most intimate and enjoyable moments of the night, and the connection between the artist and his audience was undeniable.

Walker has been around, and his youthful demeanor and high-energy performance do not reveal his age at all: he will be 52 in a few days and his adoring and caring fans celebrated a few days in advance with “Happy Birthday” signs. He has just released the 10th album of his solo career (he has also been part of several bands) while he has produced countless mainstream artists and worked with the entire music industry. He has been making music professionally for nearly four decades, as a prolific singer-songwriter and a phenomenal producer; just check his Wikipedia page, the list goes on and on, from Green Day to Weezer, Fall Out Boys, Panic! At the Disco, Cee-Lo Green, Janelle Monáe, Avril Lavigne, Pink, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran…

Butch had a very communicative enthusiasm and watching him on stage was like watching someone moving in his all-time favorite element. He had the eyes of a kid in front of a toy store on Christmas night. Butch Walker could be the epitome of the performer: he plays everything with genuine excitement and effortless exuberance, as he truly enjoys what he is doing. But the pleasure was shared by everyone in the room.

Aaron Lee Tasjan opened the night with a short set, and everyone was already familiar with him since Aaron stayed on stage all night to play lead guitar in Walker’s band… every fan obviously knew that and was friendly chatting with him between songs. Aaron is nevertheless an artist of his own, with three acclaimed albums out on New West Records (which made top albums of the year lists at Rolling Stone, NPR, American Songwriter, and other prominent outlets) and a Grammy nomination last year. Aaron Lee Tasjan, who has also been the supporting act for renowned artists such as Jason Isbell, Sheryl Crow, Cheap Trick, Todd Snider, Social Distortion, Marcus King, and Greta Van Fleet, invited Butch for a song and, right away, they pumped up the energy of the show.

I was the exception in the room and barely knew any Butch Walker songs, but, astoundingly, plenty of them sounded amazingly familiar and all these loud sing-alongs made them even closer to my sonic territory. Many songs were from his 2011 album, “The Spade” and his 2020 “American Love Story,” a rock opera with a narrative around a bigoted man becoming unlighted, and his last effort, “Glen,” inspired by the seventies. Before the show, I was vaguely considering his music rooted in rock, blues, and Americana (after all he was wearing a hat), but his performance covered much more than that, and mixing genres and not caring much about being pigeon-holed were his appeal and strength. He did it all, from the high-energy banjo track “Bodegas and Blood,” from the album “The Spade,” which, right away, received enthusiastic crowd participation, to the ‘70s-inspired piano ballads of his last effort which made him sound like a talented hybrid of Billy Joel and Elton John. You could certainly hear shades of the piano man songwriting in the big chorus and passionate vocals of “Holy Water Hangover,” or a bit of Elton in “Leather Weather (Mr. and Ms. Understanding)” while “Roll Away” had a faster drive like an old school Jerry Lee twist; “Ludlow Expectations” almost sounded Springsteen-esque and “Weight of Her” had Tom Petty’s shades. I could even add Warren Zevon here and there and Bowie (during “Cigarette lighter Love song”)… That’s the thing with Butch Walker, you can think about all your favorite artists in one night. The very catchy chorus, “Oh oh oh, stay gold” was sung by the entire crowd, and everyone melted during the pure ‘60s sweetness of “Pretty Melody.” Hook after hook, the most striking thing about the show was Walker’s ability to deliver catchy pop song after another catchy pop song when he was not shredding during a raucous guitar number. Each tune was engaging and hooky and he was hitting all the right notes each time.

He surely had the crowd at the tip of his fingers and, like Moose in front of the red sea, separated the crowd into two groups – “This has nothing to do with politics because damn it! I am sick of all this!” and told one side to sing “Love love” and the other side to reply “fuck it I don’t like love” during the song of the same name. It was a breathless performance, till mid-show when the “No Request” neon sign that lit the stage made complete sense. Walker started picking requests from fans, drawing papers from a jar that had been at the merchandise stand. And between a few Tequila shots, he dug deep in his catalog, doing songs he hadn’t played for a long time – although a few of these had to be requested quite often. “You always pick my wordiest shit!” he said after complaining about not remembering the songs’ lyrics. But he was more or less faking it.

The entire show looked like an homage to the glorious days of rock & roll with a stellar delivery and memorable hook galore. “I have been doing this for a long time and I still love it, I still love it,” he said after the requests. It was the last show of his tour, and he didn’t want to end it – it’s possible that he even played a few more songs than the ones on the setlist below. The band came back for an encore, and after playing more than 20 songs, they didn’t let the sweaty energy go down even a bit. Butch Walker jumped in the middle of the crowd, and made everyone scream, dance, and kneel during “Hot Girls in Good Moods” while a drop of green confetti covered the crowd. “I needed it, I needed it!” he said toward the end of the exhausting performance. But who wouldn’t need a good time on a dreadful Election night?

Setlist
Bodegas and Blood
Holy Water Hangover
Leather Weather (Mr. and Ms. Understanding)
Roll Away (Like a Stone)
Ludlow Expectations
Stay Gold
Bethamphetamine (Pretty, Pretty) / Tell Me I’m Pretty (Bethamphetamine Pt. 2)
The Weight of Her
Pretty Melody
Bed on Fire
Fuck It (I Don’t Like Love)

Requests (alone)
The 3 Kids in Brooklyn
Going back going home
Take tomorrow
Grant Park
Sweetheart
Cigarette lighter Love song

With full Band
Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find
Synthesizers
She Likes Hair Bands
Summer of ’89

Encore
Hot Girls in Good Moods

 

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