John Butler Trio - Federation Square, Melbourne

Written by Fletcher Diamantis

John Butler Trio - Federation Square, Melbourne

Heading along to Federation Square on Friday night, I wasn’t that sure I was going to enjoy my night, despite being in the company of incredible musicians.

This may sound weak, but it was bloody cold. But this night was about much more than great music.

The crowd, a few thousand strong, had gathered to proclaim a potent message – that the Kimberlys are too special to Australia for anyone to simply decimate them in the way that the Western Australian State Government plan to.

That being said, I’m here to review the John Butler Trio, not government policy.

The night opened with the ever-underrated Clare Bowditch. She seems to be flying under the radar at the moment; however, her songs still remain solid and well-constructed. Closing with her most powerful moment, You Make Me Happy, the crowd were ecstatic with the performance of the support act.

We were graced with a performance by Broome local Albert Wiggen, who roused the crowd with his politically themed tracks and pitch-perfect voice. The tone of the performance was sincere and the simple structure of his folk songs enunciated that. Dear Prime minister had a clear message that rang true with the crowd.

When the John Butler Trio finally took to the stage the scene was perfect. The night had just begun to fall and smoke covered the stage as John brought the funk to the stagnant audience (up until that point). The bass line was pumping with a warming rendition of Don’t Wanna See Your Face No More.

John then called out someone only known as Brother Michael to jump on the keys. The only real measure of how talented he is, aside from his performance, was that John called him ‘brother’: he’s got to be one real badass keyboardist.

The trio were beyond tight as they busted out renditions of classic John Butler Trio songs. What was equally impressive was the number of guitars John chewed through, throughout the set. He went from a twelve-string to a six-string to a slide guitar to another six-string guitar; the total instruments played by John exceeded ten by the end of the evening.

The talent of the trio was obvious, but John really shined when his band members left him to perform a rendition of his instrumental track Ocean.

Drummer, Nicky Bomba (who also fronts the Melbourne Ska Orchestra and his own band) was on form, leading the crowd in acapella-chanting whilst John got ready to bust out the hits. Moving straight into Treat Yo Mama and Revolution, it was fitting as he asked us to “raise our fists” against the proposed plans for the Kimberlys.

At this point in the evening it was time for hits to start being pumped out as John brandished a banjo to perform one of his biggest tracks Better Than, before welcoming on to the stage two members of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra to perform a delightfully funky version of Zebra. They closed the main set with Close to You, the second single from their 2010 release April Uprising.

With their trademark three-man drum jam, the band left the stage for all of a minute and a half, before running back on to warm the crowd up with Funky Tonight.

The trio ended up playing for over half an hour longer than they were meant to, but no one really seemed to mind. After all, you could do much worse than be at a concert headlined by a musical legend like John Butler.

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