What the Barrymore Theatre lacked in size, it made up for in
energy Saturday. Despite the theatre's high school auditorium size, the John
Butler Trio rocked the crowd with a combination of improvised solos and fan
participation, and was well worth the price of admission. By infusing
improvised solos into his most popular songs, the Australian jam band left the
crowd with fulfilled expectations, as well as something new.
The emphasis of the concert seemed to be on individual
performances. Shannon Birchall, who usually plays an upright bass, had a long
solo, and drummer Michael Barker. Barker had a solo that was more than 10
minutes long. However, the highlight of the show was John Butler. In the middle
of the concert, Birchall and Barker left the stage, and Butler took over. Although
he only played two songs alone, they were most enthusiastically received of the
concert. The first song of the solo performance was "Fire in the Sky," a
popular among his fans with the words, "I don't understand/ How one can kill a
man/ In the name of peace."
However, the highlight of the show had to be "Ocean," an improvisational song
that Butler wrote when he was performing as a youth at the Fremantle Market in
Australia. Although it has no words, the song is quintessentially Butler's,
showing his creativity and skill. "It keeps me very close to who I am; it's a
foundation song," Butler said. "As I change, it changes with me." The song
captivated the audience, stopping for a moment the raucous dancing and shouting.
When Butler finished, the audience cheered for about a minute consecutively.
After the applause, the band came back out to play for about an hour. The final
part of the play was when the trio played many of their hits, such as "Zebra,"
"Better Than" and "Funky Tonight," the last song that the band played. Toward
the conclusion of the song, both Birchall and Butler set their instruments down
to play on the drums with Barker. The creative finish was a fitting conclusion
to a man who played on the streets until he was able to fund the recording of
his first CD.
The two-hour concert was a testament to the growing popularity of the trio, who
couldn't sell out the Barrymore Theatre two years ago. Fans know the trio's appeal
stretches far beyond its catchy singles; their improvisational genius makes
every performance exhilarating. The only off-key note of the concert was a girl
in front of the stage, crying hysterically at the greatness of John Butler.