June 6, 2010

Music Review: John Butler Trio at Red Rocks.

Hands down, one of the best concerts I’ve attended.
Last night, I stood in the bleachers at Red Rocks Amphitheatre next to my little sister. It was a warm, breezy Colorado night, and the lights of Denver glimmered behind the stage. Fans took photos of the sunset until the sky darkened, and then they turned their cameras to the massive rocks on either side of the amphitheatre, where spotlights projected John Butler Trio’s logo. Few audience members ever sat down, and most seemed to know the words to nearly every song.
John Butler Trio hails from Australia, and they have a huge following there, but Butler said last night’s show was the “biggest gig [they’ve] ever headlined.” They took this honor seriously, playing song after incredible song until nearly 12:30 a.m. 
The current make-up of John Butler Trio includes John Butler, bassist Byron Luiters, and percussionist Nicky Bomba.  Each musician wowed the audience last night playing a variety of instruments. Highlights included Butler on the banjo and lap steel guitar and Luiters playing the upright bass and didgeridoo simultaneously.
Before the headliners took the stage, and after opening acts State Radio and Medeski, Martin, and Wood, a group of accomplished Native American drummers, singers, and dancers came on stage and performed a variety of traditional dances. The dancers also performed on stage during John Butler Trio’s first song. It was a beautiful and unexpected collaboration.
Another particularly memorable moment was what must have been at least a ten-minute guitar solo by Butler. I think it was a similar solo that knocked me over when I saw him in 2008; the song is called “Ocean,” and it has evolved over the years. He took it to yet another level last night.  
Luiters and Bomba also played engrossing solos–Luiters broke a string midway through his, requiring a quick guitar change–and Butler and his wife, Daniella Caruana, performed a compelling duet of the song “Losing You.” Throughout the night, the band played songs from their new album, April Uprising, along with older fan favorites like “Betterman” and “Zebra.”
Before singing “Peaches and Cream,” one of my personal favorites, Butler talked a bit about the world today and how, despite what we see on the news, there are many beautiful things happening all the time. “Peaches and Cream” is about his wife and daughter and how having them in his life has reminded him to see the good things.
John Butler Trio’s music does the same for me. The world is far from perfect, and their music is not about forgetting or pretending otherwise. Rather, for me, it’s about remembering how lucky I am, how alive I am, how connected we all are. It’s yoga by music, really. 
Art can liven the everyday and bolster the hard times, and John Butler Trio creates great art.  They expand the world a little, and I’m grateful. 
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