Butch Walker is an enigma. He began his career as the guitar player in Los Angeles hair metal band SouthGang, then onto power pop trio Marvelous 3 and finally a solo artist. Along the way he also became a go-to producer for such artists as Pink, Sevendust, Taylor Swift, Brian Fallon and a host of others. He is one of the great songwriters of his generation but still isn’t the household name he should be. However, those that know him are thrilled to still be able to catch him in smaller, intimate venues.
photo: Jeff Gaudiosi
On Friday, September 21, he brought his Last Days of Summer tour into the small, hot Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton, MA. Did I mention hot? The temps were getting so hot inside that Butch made a few comments from the stage about the heat, even asking to turn down the stage lights “before I disintegrate”. Part of the heat might have been the fact that Butch and his band were on fire!
You may not have blamed Butch if he decided to phone in a show in a tiny, half-filled club. After all, the next night he was at the much bigger Royale in Boston and finishing out the weekend at the legendary Irving Plaza in NYC. Butch is definitely not the kind of guy to phone in a show. You get the same effort whether it’s a half-filled club in Western Massachusetts or a packed Irving Plaza.
Butch picked a masterful setlist that took you through his solo career. With the exception of his debut, Left of Self-Centered, he touched on every record. He spent a lot of time on his last release, 2016’s brilliant Stay Gold. Butch has also never been shy about wearing his influences on his tattooed sleeve. To that end the audience was treated to snippets of Come On Eileen and Baba O’Riley and a medley of Bowie hits including Space Oddity, Under Pressure and Rebel Rebel. He also brought up opener Greg Holden to perform Holden’s On The Run with Butch and the band backing him up.
One of things that makes a Butch Walker show great is the simple fact that the man knows how to write a song. He has a pop sensibility and an ear for melody that is unrivaled. Even if you aren’t familiar with a song you can’t help but sing along to the chorus by the time it ends. He also showed off his underrated guitar skills, reminding you that he did start off as the guitar player in a hair band.
As great as the upbeat, melodic rockers are, Butch may be at his best when it’s just him, an acoustic guitar and a mic, which is exactly how he ended the show. The three song encore, played from the middle of the club floor was a microcosm of his career, Don’t Move from 2004’s Letters, Cigarette Love Song (sung mainly by the crowd) from Marvelous 3’s last record, 2000’s Ready, Sex Go, and the poignant Record Store from Stay Gold. Few can match his voice, stage presence and song writing, a Butch Walker show like the one he played in Northampton is an event that just can’t be missed!
photo: Jeff Gaudiosi
Maybe It’s Just Me
East Coast Girl
Wilder in the Heart
Bed on Fire
Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find
Ponce de Leon Ave.
On the Run (with Greg Holden)
Synthesizers / Come On Eileen
The Weight of Her / Baba O’Riley
She Likes Hair Bands
Summer of ’89
Space Oddity / Under Pressure / Rebel Rebel
Hot Girls in Good Moods
Cigarette Lighter Love Song