House Of Blues Cleveland, Ohio
By: Michael Strong
I’ve been to a few concerts in my day – many good ones, many bad. A handful have been great. That being said, I just witnessed a show that singularly encapsulates what live music should be: the emotions, the connection, the spirit. A Butch Walker show is always quite the shindig, but tonight was exceptional.
Butch has a way of wrapping the audience around his pinky, allowing him to pull off the risky proposition of starting his set with four tracks off his brand new album, “Stay Gold“. The crowd sang along from the opening lyrics of “Stay Gold” until the final words of the set closer, the introspective “Record Store”, along with every highlight in between.
New songs,such as “Stay Gold”, “East Coast Girl” and “Wilder at Heart” blended perfectly with all the classic Butch tracks. First reaching back, dedicating “Chrissie Hynde” to her and saying she is his biggest influence, on her birthday, in her area of birth. Then the slow churning sensual “Bed of Fire” had everyone swaying, still singing along.
The show was simmering up to that point. From the opening notes that launch “Pretty Melody”, Butch and his top notch band turned the heat up to a rapid boil. Unrelenting, they dove head first into “Ponce de Leon“, the crowd singing louder than the band at this point. Butch must have sensed the imminent spontaneous combustion, because he backed off the pedal with the heart wrenching “Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find”. I doubt I was the only one with tears during this number.
Back to the party, Butch brought the House of Blues to the most feverish boil on this hot, humid night. Sprinkling in “Come on Eileen” and “Teenage Wasteland” into his songs “Synthesizers” and “The Weight of Her”, with the young James Walker, Butch’s son, taking lead vocals. With a brief moment for James to say “My mom gave me a KitKat so I’d stay up“, James made his exit and gave the crowd a minute to catch their collective breath.
The breather was short lived. “She Likes Hairbands”, “Summer of ’89“, and “Three Kids from Brooklyn” were all delivered spot on.
Butch then implored the crowd to participate in an “upper body freak out” and dance as badly as possible. From the intro of the party anthem in waiting “Hot Girls in a Good Mood”, we all obliged. That is until the surprising post chorus declaration that a couple requested he become an ordained minister and marry them. Mid song! Complete with vows and confetti.
After a moment or two to get the encore chants, the harrowing “Record Store” closed the festivities on yet another heartfelt note.
Commanding the stage, while having that much fun is not an easy task, but the the criminally underrated Butch Walker makes it seem natural. Can’t say effortless because you can tell he leaves it all on the stage. Luckily for his cult-like following, he flies under the radar enough to catch him in mid-size venues, where live music really shines. If Butch and his band come to your town, do not miss them.
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