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AAA Music | 26 May 2022

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John Butler Trio – Live @ The Great Hall

| On 19, Oct 2018

Monday 15th October, Exeter

With a fresh new album all the way from Australia to perform to their loyal fan base, John Butler, Australia’s highest selling independent artist of all time, and his new five piece band have arrived at a jam-packed Exeter Great Hall with Bobby Alu on the tail-end of their UK tour.

Before “the Trio” bless the crowd with the highly anticipated Home album, Bobby Alu graces the stage with just a set of drums and his baritone ukulele sending the crowd from the rainy streets of Exeter to the sunshine sands of Gold Coast Australia. Alu’s chilled vibe was a beautiful contrast to the heavy blues rock of the John Butler Trio – the calm before the storm!

“Evolving his music” since the Trio’s Flesh and Blood album, we hear a lot more bass synth and programmed drum beats, which are created live with his new five piece band (Butler attempts to create all the album sounds live), boasting two drummers, double bass, percussion and keys, plus Butler’s collection of guitars.

John Butler Trio begin their 2 hour set with the first track off the album Tatian Blue – a folky, heart warming track to contrast with the heavy drum, bass and lap guitars of following ‘Wade in the Water’, inspired by his trip to India and learning from great Hindustani slide player Debashish Bhattacharya. You can detect influence from hip-hop artists Pharrell and Timbaland, as Butler passionately plays his new techniques on his lap guitar.

John Butler then takes us back to Flesh and Blood and Grand National by playing ‘Better Than’ and ‘Bullet Girl’, but is quick to return to his new music ‘Just Call’, which features a riff Butler has had for 15 years (!) and ‘Faith’, before becoming absorbed in a solo guitar interlude. He then returns to the crowd to express his gratitude of support act Bobby Alu. A sea of purple lights submerge the great hall as the crowd are hit with the heavy riffs of ‘Blame It On Me’, where Butler shows off his impressive use of his extensive pedal board and famous whammy pedal creating a masterpiece of sound as the drums and double bass keep the steady beat the crowd are dancing too. Butler throws his head in the air to return to the crowd, a truly impressive display of Butler and his band’s talents to shock the audience at every turn.

‘Ocean’ is the treasure of the set, with Exeter having a special extended version due to health issues of a band member (resulting in the set being shorter) with a single spotlight on Butler and his guitar. It’s hard to describe in words the reaction and how beautiful the Great Hall sounded in those 20 minutes, mixing up all the separate parts to form a totally different ocean… a real once in a lifetime experience.

Butler takes a break from the guitar solos to shout “do you feel like singing or what!?”, joking with the crowd at how quiet the cheer was before, the noise was the deafening to perform a Freddie Mercury, with the crowd repeating his melodies. The crowd reclaim their dancing shoes for final song ‘Zebra’, which features a mid reggae mix – a great end to an impressive set, it’s easy to see why John Butler Trio hold Australia’s ‘highest selling independent artist of all time’ accolade with such a fine-tuned performance.

Abbie Barton