Yorkshire's 'Hippest' Music Webzine

John Butler Trio @ Academy, Manchester, 10/4/10

In Live, Reviews on April 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

by Matt Waring

Photos by Matt Waring, see more at the Rather Hip Flickr.

When people talk about modern day guitar heroes, the likes of Matt Bellamy, Slash, Jack White and the Edge are the ones that get mentioned most. How John Butler isn’t mentioned with these people is quite astonishing.

Tonight, the people of Manchester were witness to one of the biggest musical talents of our time, but unfortunately, he seems to be one of the most under appreciated talents too.

Support came from an act called The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, although there was actually a boy and girl on stage, with the titular Boy, Colin MacLeod accompanied by his cello playing, wine drinking friend Stacey. The duo performed a series of melancholy acoustic numbers that were at times not unlike Damien Rice, but with a hint of the headliners more laid back sound thrown in as well. The act were pleasantly received, and after some charming in between song banter, I am sure that I won’t be the only one that looks this man up at a later date.

However, for all the applause The Boy Who Trapped The Sun received, it was nothing compared to the deafening roar that filled the Academy when John Butler and co. walked onstage. Although this band does not have the biggest following, they are clearly loved by their fans. They wasted no time in repaying this adoration by launching straight into the fantastic ‘Used To Get High’, from 2007’s ‘Grand National’ LP. The band continued to tear through songs both old and new, keeping the audience on their toes. Not least because of the uncontrollable urge to dance that each and every song provided.

Although the band is named after its ringleader, the John Butler Trio are by no means a group of one person. While the focus may, understandably, be on Butler, both of his fellow band mates are fantastic musicians in their own right. Both were given their time in the limelight as well, with drummer Nicky Bomba particularly shining following his fantastic drum solo during ‘Good Excuse’. It appeared that the equally talented Byron Luiters was less keen for his chance to shine though. After being given time for a bass solo of his own, it seemed to take him a while to get into it, as he sheepishly shied away from the cheers of the crowd.

It was Butler himself though, that had the audience captivated. Whether he was playing a standard acoustic, 12-string, steel bodied, slide guitar or even banjo, he proved himself to be a virtuoso. Gliding his fingers across the fret board with an irritating sense of ease. A perfect case in point was when he was left to his own devices onstage, and after the beautiful ‘Losing You’ the audience was given the pleasure and privilege of ‘Ocean’. Perhaps one of the best pieces of instrumental music of our time, no amount of handclaps or cheers could do it justice. All I could do was stand and watch in awe, witness to one of music’s great, unknown talents. It is just a shame that the people stood around me felt the need to have a conversation all the way through.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about seeing the John Butler Trio live is the length of the set. Not only are all three members very talented individuals, but they can go on for a bit too. The two and a half hour set though, seemed to fly by. And in this time, Butler managed to cram in ten songs from new album ‘April Uprising’, as well as a plethora of older material from ‘Grand National’ and ‘Sunrise Over Sea’, along with the epic ‘Ocean’. Indeed the band played so many songs that by the time they ended with the fantastic ‘Funky Tonight’, I had difficulty remembering what they had played at the start of the night.

To say that John Butler is an under rated talent would be an understatement in itself. The man is clearly one of the best living musicians, with an excellent backing band to boot. The way he controls his guitar with such ease and finesse to make some of the most incredible music is something that has to be seen to be believed. “That was amazing”, one of the audience members uttered as the band left the stage. He’s not wrong there.

  1. Not much to add to Matt’s review, except to say he got it pretty well spot on. The Boy Who Trapped The Sun is well worth further exploration – but the UK really should wake up to JBT who are a hugely talented, hugely entertaining bunch. My mini-review is on the Word website here: http://www.wordmagazine.co.uk/content/john-butler-trio

  2. Have to agree with the review also. It was an amazing show, I’ve been listening to John Butler Trio for a number of years now and this was my first time seeing them live. They had myself and the rest of the audience captivated and filled with energy exemplified by the participation during ‘Peaches & Cream’. How the man is not more widely appreciated or known, blows my mind nearly as much as his music.

  3. Just back from the Southampton gig, the third time I’ve seen ’em in the UK, so what can you learn from that? Seeig JBT is habit-forming! The reason is simple – they absolutely kick arse live.

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