REVIEW: John Butler Trio

The Michigan Theater provided a really gorgeous setting for last night’s concert. If you’ve ever been there, you’re familiar with the ornate designs on the walls, the gold sheen of everything, and the overall cozy yet lavish atmosphere. As the theater started filling up, Dustin Thomas started his set.

He played a song from 2016 that stuck out to me, called “Kings and Queens.” He introduced it by stating that we need to live more like our grandparents – in the moment, and connected with our loved ones (not our screens). In a rather ironic turn of events, one of his next songs was, as he called it, a “reverse Thanksgiving song,” something to listen to when politics emerges at the dinner table. Overall, though, Dustin Thomas’s set was heartfelt, even though it wasn’t what I was there for.

Based on the reaction John Butler received after intermission, I wasn’t alone in my excitement for his performance. There were 5 people onstage, the only other one I was familiar with other than Butler being the bassist, Byron Luiters. As I mentioned before, I was a little skeptical about the new drummer, but he was amazing.

I’ve always admired the John Butler Trio’s message. He had a great respect for the Native American land gift that is our university, and said so explicitly before he started playing. I also really love the band’s logo and poster artwork. Aside from aesthetics, the music was better than I’d anticipated. I had forgotten how great they were in a live performance. Every single one of their songs was unique.

“Blame It On Me” was one of the songs I particularly enjoyed. Butler was on an electric guitar. During his solo he used a reverb setting which reminded me a bit of the Eagles. I was amazed at how much of the neck he was using, and so quickly. The lights even did the rock song strobe effect so it was a very intense experience.

Speaking of the lights, whoever was the light designer was impeccable. The colors were both subtle and vibrant at the right moments, and complex sets were well thought through for every song. The music was good, but the performance wouldn’t have been half as impressive with a different light show.

That is, of course, except for “Ocean.” It’s hard to even come up with where to start talking about that song. It’s more than a song, really, I think it’s more Butler’s life experience, or whatever message he’s trying to portray. It’s all played on his beautiful 12 string, but it sounds like at least five different instruments. My favorite version still has to be Live at Red Rocks, so if you ever get a chance, be sure to look it up. You’ll understand why I haven’t been able to do it justice in a description.

I would have paid the full ticket price just to see “Ocean,” but I got a lot more. Last night was a great show, and if John Butler is ever back in Michigan, I’ll be sure to attend.

PREVIEW: John Butler Trio

Tomorrow night at 7:30, the John Butler Trio will be performing at the Michigan Theater. I’ve seen them once before a few years ago in Grand Rapids, and they were amazing. Butler’s guitar playing in particular stood out to me – if you’ve ever heard or seen him play “Ocean” you’ll know what I mean. I wanted to buy a 12 string guitar for the better part of high school just to learn that song.

The John Butler Trio has a new album out. It’s called “Home.” It’s pretty good; a little more alternative than their previous stuff, it’s definitely marking the band’s progression through the genres. While I don’t like it as much as some of their other albums, I’m excited to see how they incorporate new and old songs into their set. They also have a new drummer, Grant Gerathy.

They will be performing tomorrow night with Dustin Thomas.